Space Shuttle Columbia disaster remembered 10 years later (PHOTOS)


The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia's mission STS-107 pose for the traditional crew portrait. Seated in front are astronauts Rick D. Husband (L), mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing are (L to R) astronauts David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist representing the Israeli Space Agency.



NASA is marking the 10th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster today with a public memorial service at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Associated Press reported. Evelyn Husband Thompson, who was married to the shuttle's commander, will be one of the speakers.

"The Lord definitely healed our hearts tremendously, but it's a lifelong process," Thompson, who remarried five years ago, told CNN. "I don't think that pain ever completely goes away."

Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, died on Feb. 1, 2003, when Columbia disintegrated over Texas while returning to Earth, NBC News reported.

The cause of the crash was a problem that had occurred on takeoff 16 days earlier, the AP reported. Insulating foam from the shuttle's fuel tank hit the shuttle’s left wing, damaging it.

Upon the shuttle’s return, turbulence developed around the growing hole in the wing and air drag tumbled the shuttle, which then broke into pieces, NBC News reported.

According to NBC News:

Equipped with spacesuits and parachutes, the crew would have had time to experience the initial tumble and breakup for several seconds, and to hope that they might be thrown free and descend safely by parachute.

Most of the astronauts were killed by blows from swirling cabin fragments, NBC News reported.

NASA officials had seen the foam hit the wing on video footage of the liftoff the day after the shuttle left Earth, but decided the damage was not serious, the AP reported.

The shuttle program was suspended for two years following the disaster, then restarted with new safety protocols, the AP reported. The program was cancelled in 2011.

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