Columbia, on mission STS-107, left Earth for the last time on Jan. 16, 2003. At the time, the shuttle program was focused on building the International Space Station. However, STS-107 stood apart as it emphasized pure research.
NASA's oldest shuttle, Columbia was returning from a 16-day science mission when it broke apart over Texas, just minutes before it was due to land in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was brought down by a hole in its hollow left wing, which allowed hot gases to seep in and tear the shuttle apart as it re-entered the atmosphere. The damage occurred during liftoff when a chunk of foam insulation peeled off the shuttle's fuel tank and struck the wing. Foam had broken off in past, and NASA knew Columbia's wing had been hit, but didn't think it was a serious problem.
The accident killed the seven-member crew: Commander Rick Husband, co-pilot William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Dr. Laurel Clark, Dr. David Brown and Ilan Ramon, Israel's first spaceman. Husband, Chawla and Anderson had flown before; the rest were on their first flight. The crew spent the mission doing dozens of science experiments.
Prior to this accident, on Jan. 28, 1986, NASA faced its first shuttle disaster, the loss of the Challenger orbiter and its seven-astronaut crew.
These accidents are heartbreaking. I think there is so much importance to Space investigation, so these tragedies always hit me hard. With the Columbia disaster however, it has changed the space program. Nasa is developing the next generation of spaceship, Orion.
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