Remembering The Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, On This Day 20 Years Ago



The elevate off of House Shuttle Columbia from Launch Pad 39A firstly of mission STS-107. (Photograph: NASA)

The orbiter broke aside whereas reentering the environment on the finish of the STS-107 mission.

February 1, 2003 will dwell up as one of the saddest days in the history of space exploration. Simply 22 minutes earlier than landing, at 8:54 AM EST, uncommon readings from the sensors confirmed up at Mission Management because the House Shuttle Columbia was on strategy to the Kennedy House Middle (KSC), in Florida, on the finish of the STS-107 mission.

“FYI, I’ve simply misplaced 4 separate temperature transducers on the left aspect of the automobile, hydraulic return temperatures. Two of them on system one and one in every of methods two and three”, mentioned the Upkeep, Mechanical, Arm and Crew Programs Officer to the Flight Director on the intercom. Different sensors start exhibiting not-nominal readings, whereas aerodynamic drag on the left wing improve.

At 8:59, MMACS experiences the lack of tire stress readings on the left touchdown gear, which is relayed to the Space Shuttle commander. “Roger, buh” was his abruptly cutoff reply, the final radio transmission from the crew because the Shuttle was approaching Dallas, Texas. Within the following seconds, flight controllers start reporting a string of issues.

At 9:03, the Capsule Commander (CAPCOM) makes an attempt to speak with the orbiter: “Columbia, Houston, comm test.” With the radio calls each 30 seconds going unanswered, everybody begins to comprehend one thing could be very improper, as no radio contact and radar monitoring may very well be established.

At 9:12 the management room will get the information no person wished to her that day, the automobile broke up and multiple contrails were seen alongside Columbia’s flight path. The seven astronauts on the Columbia, Commander Rick D. Husband and Pilot William C. “Willie” McCool, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Mission Specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel B. Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, misplaced their lives.

The crew of STS107. (Picture credit score: NASA)

The flight director declares a contingency: “Lock the doorways”, ordering the controllers to begin the Flight Management Operations Handbook contingency plan process. The Mission Management is remoted, no transmissions of any sort in or out, whereas flight controllers secured all their info, notes and information gathered from the spacecraft.

STS-107 was the first Shuttle mission of the year, out of six deliberate. This was the primary shuttle mission devoted to microgravity analysis in practically 5 years, whereas the others had been deliberate to proceed the development of the Worldwide House Station. Through the mission, the seven-member crew labored on 80 U.S. and worldwide experiments aboard a Spacehab Double Analysis Module in Columbia’s payload bay.

House shuttle Columbia started its twenty eighth mission with a liftoff from KSC’s Launch Pad 39A at 10:39 am EST on Jan. 16, 2003. The launch appeared to go effectively and after eight and a half minutes, Columbia reached its deliberate orbit to start the 16-day microgravity analysis mission. Throughout routine evaluation of launch movies, nevertheless, engineers famous that at about 82 seconds into the flight, a bit of froth insulation launched from the Shuttle’s Exterior Tank (ET) appeared to strike Columbia’s left wing.

On Jan. 23, the Flight Director notified Husband and McCool of the froth strike, however assured them that as a result of the phenomenon had occurred on earlier missions, it precipitated no concern for harm to the automobile or for reentry. Nonetheless, engineers on the bottom continued to evaluate the impression of the froth strike, requesting high-resolution imaging of the affected space to finish a extra thorough evaluation, however finally managers turned down the request.

After which, fifteen minutes after entry interface, flying over Texas at an altitude of 207,000 ft and 16 minutes from touchdown at KSC, Mission Management misplaced contact with Columbia and her crew.

Bob Cabana, Affiliate Administrator of NASA, delivers remarks throughout NASA’s Day of Remembrance ceremony, hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Basis at Kennedy House Middle Customer Advanced, Thursday, January 26, 2023. The ceremony highlighted the crew of House Shuttle Columbia STS-107 for the twentieth anniversary of the mission catastrophe that killed seven astronauts on Feb. 1, 2003. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

5 hours after the tragedy, President George W. Bush addressed a shocked nation, “My fellow Individuals, at the present time has introduced horrible information, and nice disappointment to our nation. … The Columbia is misplaced; there are not any survivors.” By that point, authorities in Texas and Louisiana had begun the arduous job of recovering the stays of the astronauts and the particles from Columbia, a course of that took greater than three months and resulted within the restoration of about 38% of Columbia by weight.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board came upon that the froth from the exterior tank’s left bipod ramp space impacted Columbia within the neighborhood of the decrease left wing strengthened carbon-carbon panels 5-9. Whereas on orbit, nobody on the Shuttle and on the bottom had any thought concerning the harm. When the automobile started reentry this broken part of the wing was subjected to excessive entry heating over a protracted time period, inflicting the destruction of the wing after which the breakup and crash of Columbia.

The CAIB report additionally criticized NASA’s organizational and security tradition, discovering comparable faults that led to the 1986 Challenger accident. Among the many criticisms, the report said that NASA had grow to be complacent to the lack of foam from the exterior tank, since none had led to vital points apart from postflight upkeep.

The investigation led to the grounding of the area shuttle fleet as NASA applied the suggestions from the CAIB, till the STS-114 return to flight mission of Discovery in July 2005. By then, it was determined to retire the shuttle after finishing meeting of the ISS, with the final mission being the STS-135 flight of Atlantis in July 2011. For future human area flights, NASA developed the Crew Exploration Vehicle, now called Orion, for deep area exploration missions.

On January 28, the day of the annual tribute to all fallen astronauts, NASA marked the twentieth anniversary of the area shuttle Columbia tragedy with somber ceremonies and remembrances. The day was chosen due to the clustering of the dates of the worst accidents, the Apollo 1 launch pad fireplace on January 27, 1967, the lack of Challenger throughout liftoff on January 28, 1986 and the lack of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to attain a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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