Skip to comments.Space Shuttle Disintegrates Over Texas
Posted on 02/01/2003 10:04:41 AM PST by MeekOneGOPEdited on 04/22/2004 12:35:27 AM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Space Shuttle Columbia blew up and disintegrated in flames over Texas Saturday morning, just 16 minutes before it was expected to land at Cape Canaveral. A senior U.S. official said the spacecraft was "gone."
Seven astronauts -- six Americans and the first Israeli to go into space -- were aboard the shuttle, which had been orbiting the Earth for 16 days.
NASA lowered its flags at Cape Canaveral at 11 a.m. EST, but no official statement had yet been made about the fate of the crew. Officials at Kennedy Space Center said President Bush would be making an announcement.
The flag was lowered to half-staff at the Capitol in Washington.
White House officials said there were no indications that terrorism was involved. Bush was alerted to the likely disaster at Camp David, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge went to the White House to monitor the situation.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no threat was made and the shuttle was out of range of a surface-to-air missile.
Columbia was at an altitude of 207,000 feet over north-central Texas at a 9 a.m., traveling at 12,500 mph, when Mission Control lost all contact and tracking data. The shuttle was aiming for a Florida landing at 9:16 a.m.
Television footage showed a bright light followed by smoke plumes streaking diagonally through the sky. Debris appeared to break off into separate balls of light as it continued downward.
Residents of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana said they saw flames and heard a window-rattling boom at about 9 a.m., the same time all radio and data communication with the shuttle and its crew was lost.
"It was like a car hitting the house or an explosion. It shook that much," said John Ferolito, 60, of Carrolton, Texas.
What a terrible tragedy. My prayers go out to the crew/passengers and their families...
Please let me know if you want ON or OFF my General Interest or Texas ping list!. . .don't be shy.
Shortly after Columbia lifted off Jan. 16, a piece of insulating foam on its external fuel tank came off and was believed to have hit the left wing of the shuttle. Leroy Cain, the lead flight director in Mission Control, assured reporters Friday that engineers had concluded that any damage to the wing was considered minor and posed no safety hazard.
Maybe they should have aborted at liftoff... But the problem is that once you are up in space, you have no choice, but to try to land...
During the liftoff phase, there are "critical" points that decisions must be made quickly. They may not have thought the collision was significant during liftoff.
But the greatest stress on the wing would be on re-entry into the atmosphere -- causing the wing to shear off, and destroying the shuttle.
I'm watching FOX News and they are showing a scene somewhere in Texas with a blackened, smoking patch of land. I assume in the Nacogdoches area where the greatest amount of debris fell.
"We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes
On the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth."
Robert A. Heinlein
The Green Hills of Earth
May God bless the heroes of every kind that seek to understand His glory. Amen.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
News just also said that family members of Columbia being flown back to Houston to Johnson Space Center. Very somber day.
Three Texans among Columbia crew Although all seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia trained at NASA in Houston, the commander and two others had even stronger connections to Texas.
Although all seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia trained at NASA in Houston, the commander and two others had even stronger connections to Texas.
Commander Rick Husband grew up in Amarillo and received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980.
Pilot William McCool graduated from Coronado High School in Lubbock. And Kalpana Chawla, a mission specialist, earned a master's degree from the University of Texas-Arlington in 1984.
All died Saturday morning when the shuttle disintegrated over Texas en route to a scheduled landing in Florida.
Husband, an Air Force colonel, was commanding his first mission in only his second space flight.
"I think a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time, for starters," Husband, 45, said before the flight.
Husband was a test pilot until he was selected for the astronaut corps in 1994, after his fourth try.
"It's been pretty much a lifelong dream and just a thrill to be able to get to actually live it out," Husband said.
McCool was a space rookie and the pilot of the shuttle mission. McCool, 41, graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983. After serving as a commander and test pilot, he became an astronaut in 1996.
Part of his job on the mission, which was devoted mainly to scientific research, was to draw blood from his crewmates, a skill he practiced on NASA volunteers.
"I didn't want to inflict pain," said McCool, a father of three sons. "We weren't really gathering science, so everything that they were going through was for my benefit, and I guess I felt bad a little bit."
Chawla moved to the United States after receiving a degree in aeronautical engineering in India in 1982. She then attended UTA and graduated with a master of science in aerospace engineering in 1984. Her doctorate came from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1988.
For Chawla, the Columbia mission may have been a chance at redemption. Mistakes on her only other space flight, in 1996, caused the crew to lose control momentarily of a science satellite. Two other astronauts went on a space walk to recapture it.
"I stopped thinking about it after trying to figure out what are the lessons learned, and there are so many," Chawla said. "After I had basically sorted that out, I figured it's time to really look at the future, not at the past."
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