Sunday, February 1, 2015

Today in American History: Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster 02/01/2003

Today on 02/01/2003 in American History the Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) disintegrated in the skies over Texas and Louisiana during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.  The shuttle carried Colonel Rick Husband, Commander William McCool, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson, Colonel Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, Captain David Brown and Captain Laurel Clark.  All seven crew members died in the disaster.

During her launch, the left wing of the Columbia was struck by a piece of the foam insulation the broke off one of the external tanks.  This was not the first time such an incident had occurred during the launch of a shuttle.  However, upon further study of the launch, engineers on the ground feared that the damage was worse than other shuttles had suffered.  In the wake of the disaster, some in the media criticized NASA for not researching the problem more in-depth before re-entry.  NASA held firm to the idea that even if they'd known the exact nature of the damage before re-entry, there was nothing that the crew could do to repair it.

When the Columbia re-entered the atmosphere, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure.  This caused the structure of the craft to become unstable, and slowly tear itself apart.

Much like the Challenger disaster the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia prompted a long halt to the American Space Shuttle program.  This caused the halting to the construction of the International Space Station, and no way to resupply the people already in orbit.  The Russian Federal Space Agency picked up the slack at this time, sending flights up to resupply the station for 29 month.  The United States would resume its duties with the Space Shuttle Discovery.  NASA responded by reorganizing its leadership, creating a team that would assess how well the structure of the space craft and its thermal protection system withstood the launch, and the formal establishment of a ready rescue mission should any irreparable damage be done to the craft during its mission.

This was the 28th mission that the Columbia undertook.  She first launched on April 12, 1981 and had the honor of being the first space rated American Space Shuttle Orbiter, and the first mission of the American Shuttle program.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

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