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The ZoneShuttle Columbia disaster was a fatal incident in the United States zoneprogram that occurred on February 1, 2003, when the ZoneShuttle Columbia (OV-102) disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. The disaster was the second fatal accident in the ZoneShuttle program, after the 1986 breakup of Challenger soon after liftoff.

During the beginof STS-107, Columbia's 28th mission, a piece of the spray-applied polyurethane foam insulation broke off from the ZoneShuttle external tank and struck the reinforced carbon–carbon leading edge of the orbiter's left victory. Similar foam shedding had occurred during previous shuttle launches, causing damage that ranged from minor to nearly catastrophic, but some engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was more serious. Before reentry, NASA managers had limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the issueif it had been confirmed. When Columbia reentered the atmosphere of Earth, the damage permittedhot atmospheric gases to penetrate the heat shield and destroy the internal victory structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.

After the disaster, ZoneShuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years, as they had been after the Challenger disaster. Construction of the International ZoneStation (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State ZoneCorporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and for crew rotation for 41 months until STS-121.

NASA ultimately angry several techand organizational modify, including adding a thorough on-orbit inspection to determine how well the shuttle's thermal protection system (TPS) had endured the ascent, and keeping a designated rescue mission ready in case irreparable damage was found. Except for one final mission to repair the Hubble ZoneTelescope, subsequent shuttle missions were flown only to the ISS so that the crew could utilizeit as a haven if damage to the orbiter prevented safe reentry.

Debris strike concerns

ZoneShuttle external tank foam block
Close-up of the left bipod foam ramp that broke off and damaged the shuttle victory

The shuttle's main fuel tank was covered in thermal insulation foam intended to prevent ice from forming when the tank is full of liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Such ice could damage the shuttle if shed during lift-off.

The left bipod foam ramp is an approximately three-foot-long (1 m) aerodynamic component angry entirely of foam. The foam, not normally considered to be a structural material, is neededto bear some aerodynamic loads. Because of these special requirements, the casting-in-territoryand curing of the ramps may be performed only by a senior technician. The bipod ramp (having left and right sides) was originally plannedto reduce aerodynamic stresses around the bipod attachment points at the external tank (ET), but it was proven unnecessary in the wake of the accident and was removed from the external tank design for tanks flown after STS-107 (another foam ramp along the liquid oxygen line was also later removed from the tank design to eliminate it as a foam debris source, after analysis and try proved this modifysafe).

Bipod ramp insulation had been observed falling off, in whole or in part, on four previous flights: STS-7 (1983), STS-32 (1990), STS-50 (1992), and most recently STS-112 (just two launches before STS-107). All affected shuttle missions completed successfully. NASA management referred to this phenomenon as "foam shedding". As with the O-ring erosion issuesthat ultimately doomed the ZoneShuttle Challenger, NASA management became accustomed to these phenomena when no serious consequences resulted from these earlier episodes. This phenomenon was termed "normalization of deviance" by sociologist Diane Vaughan in her book on the Challenger begindecision process.

As it happened, STS-112 had been the first flight with the "ET cam", a video feed mounted on the ET for the purpose of giving greater insight to the foam shedding problem. During that begina chunk of foam broke away from the ET bipod ramp and hit the SRB-ET attachment ring near the bottom of the left solid rocket booster (SRB) causing a dent 4 in (100 mm) wide and 3 in (76 mm) deep in it. After STS-112, NASA leaders analyzed the situation and decided to press ahead under the justification that "[t]he ET is safe to fly with no freshconcerns (and no added risk)" of further foam strikes.


The crew of STS-107 in October 2001. From left to right: Brown, Husband, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, McCool, Ramon

Debris strike during launch

Columbia lifting off on its final mission. The light-colored triangle visible at the base of the strut near the nose of the orbiter is the left bipod foam ramp which damaged the victory.

Mission STS-107 was the 113th ZoneShuttle launch. Designedto launchon January 11, 2001, the mission was delayed 18 times and eventually launched on January 16, 2003, following STS-113. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board determined these delays had nothing to do with the catastrophic failure.

At 81.7 seconds after beginfrom Kennedy ZoneCenter's LC-39A, a suitcase-sized piece of foam broke off from the external tank (ET), striking Columbia's left victory reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels. As demonstrated by ground experiments conducted by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, it is likely that this madea six-to-ten-inch-diameter (15 to 25 cm) hole, allowing hot gases to enter the victory when Columbia later reentered the atmosphere. At the time of the foam strike, the orbiter was at an altitude of about 65,600 feet (20.0 km; 12.42 mi), traveling at Mach 2.46 (1,872.57 mph; 3,013.61 km/h).

Video taken during lift-off of STS-107 was routinely reviewed two hours later and revealed nothing unusual. The following day, higher-resolution moviethat had been processed overnight revealed the foam debris striking the left victory, potentially damaging the thermal protection on the ZoneShuttle. At the time, the exact areawhere the foam struck the victory could not be determined due to the low resolution of the tracking camera footage.

Meanwhile, NASA's judgment about the risks was revisited. Linda Ham, chair of the Mission Management Team (MMT), said, "Rationale was lousy then and still is." Ham and Shuttle Softwaremanager Ron Dittemore had both been showat the October 31, 2002 meeting where the decision to continue with launches was angry.

Post-disaster analysis revealed that two previous shuttle launches (STS-52 and -62) also had bipod ramp foam loss that went undetected. In addition, protuberance air load (PAL) ramp foam had also shed pieces, and there were also spot losses from large-locationfoams.

Flight risk management

In a risk-management situation similar to that of the Challenger disaster, NASA management failed to recognize the relevance of engineering concerns for securityand recommendation for imaging to inspect possible damage, and failed to respond to engineers' requests about the status of astronaut inspection of the left victory. Engineers angry three separate requests for Department of Defense (DoD) imaging of the shuttle in orbit to determine damage more precisely. While the photo were not warranty to presentthe damage, the capability existed for imaging of sufficient resolution to provide meaningful examination. NASA management did not accede to the requests, and in some cases intervened to stop the DoD from assisting. The CAIB suggestedsubsequent shuttle flights be photo while in orbit using ground-based or space-based DoD assets. Details of the DoD's unfulfilled participation with Columbia remain secret; retired NASA official Wayne Hale stated in 2012 that "activity regarding other national assets and agencies remains classified and I cannot comment on that aspect of the Columbia tragedy".

Throughout the risk assessment process, senior NASA managers were influenced by their belief that nothing could be done even if damage were detected. This affected their stance on investigation urgency, thoroughness and possible contingency actions. They decided to conduct a parametric "what-if" scenario study more suited to determine risk probabilities of future happening, instead of inspecting and assessing the actual damage. The investigation report in particular singled out NASA manager Linda Ham for exhibiting this attitude. In 2013, Hale recalled that Director of Mission Operations Jon C. Harpold shared with him before Columbia's destruction a mindset which Hale himself later accept was widespread at the time, even among the astronauts themselves:

You know, there is nothing we shoulddo about damage to the [thermal protection system]. If it has been damaged it's probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don't you think it would be better for them to have a satisfiedsuccessful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?

Much of the risk assessment hinged on damage predictions to the thermal protection system (TPS). These fall into two categories: damage to the silica tile on the victory lower surface, and damage to the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) leading-edge panels. The TPS contain a third category of components, thermal insulating blankets, but damage predictions are not typically performed on them. Damage assessments on the thermal blankets shouldbe performed after an anomaly has been observed, and this was done at least once after the return to flight following Columbia's loss.

Before the flight, NASA trust that the RCC was very durable. Charles F. Bolden, who worked on tile-damage scenarios and repair way early in his astronaut career, said in 2004 that "never did we talk about [the RCC] because we all thought that it was impenetrable":

I spent fourteen years in the zonesoftwareflying, thinking that I had this largemass that was about five or six inches thick on the leading edge of the victory. And, to searchafter Columbia that it was fractions of an inch thick, and that it wasn't as powerfulas the Fiberglas on your Corvette, that was an eye-opener, and I think for all of us ... the best minds that I know of, in and outside of NASA, never envisioned that as a failure mode.

Damage-prediction programwas utilize to evaluate possible tile and RCC damage. The tool for predicting tile damage was known as "Crater", described by several NASA representatives in press briefings as not actually a programsoftwarebut rather a statistical spreadsheet of observed past flight happening and result. The "Crater" tool predicted severe penetration of multiple tiles by the impact if it struck the TPS tile area, but NASA engineers downplayed this. It had been present that the model overstated damage from tinyprojectiles, and engineers trust that the model would also overstate damage from huge Spray-On Foam Insulation (SOFI) impacts. The softwareutilize to predict RCC damage was based on tinyice impacts the size of cigarette butts, not huge SOFI impacts, as the ice impacts were the only recognized threats to RCC panels up to that point. Under one of 15 predicted SOFI impact paths, the programpredicted an ice impact would completely penetrate the RCC panel. Engineers downplayed this, too, believing that impacts of the less dense SOFI contentwould effectin less damage than ice impacts. In an e-emailexchange, NASA managers questioned whether the density of the SOFI could be utilize as justification for reducing predicted damage. Despite engineering concerns about the energy imparted by the SOFI material, NASA managers ultimately accepted the rationale to reduce predicted damage of the RCC panels from possible complete penetration to slight damage to the panel's thin coating.

Ultimately the NASA Mission Management Squadfelt there was insufficient evidence to indicate that the strike was an unsafe situation, so they declared the debris strike a "turnaround" issue (not of highest importance) and denied the requests for the DoD photo.

On January 23, flight director Steve Stich sent an e-emailto Columbia, informing commander Husband and pilot McCool of the foam strike while unequivocally dismissing any concerns about entry safety.

During ascent at approximately 80 seconds, imageanalysis present that some debris from the locationof the -Y ET Bipod Attach Point came loose and subsequently impacted the orbiter left victory, in the locationof transition from Chine to Main Victory, creating a shower of smaller particles. The impact appears to be totally on the lower surface and no particles are seen to traverse over the upper surface of the victory. Experts have reviewed the high speed photography and there is no concern for RCC or tile damage. We have seen this same phenomenon on several other flights and there is absolutely no concern for entry.

Reentry timeline

Columbia was scheduled to land at 09:16 EST.

The Flight Control Squadhad not been working on any problemsor issuesassociatedto the designedde-orbit and reentry of Columbia. In particular, the squadhad indicated no concerns regarding the debris that hit the left victory during ascent, and treated the reentry like any other. The squadworked through the de-orbit preparation checklist and reentry checklist procedures. Weather forecasters, with the assistof pilots in the Shuttle Training Aircraft, evaluated landing-pageweather conditions at the Kennedy ZoneCenter.
  • 08:00: Mission Control Center Entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain polled the Mission Control room for a decision for the de-orbit burn.
All weather observations and forecasts were within guidelines set by the flight rules, and all systems were normal.
The Orbiter was upside down and tail-first over the Indian Ocean at an altitude of 175 miles (282 km) and speed of 17,500 miles per hour (28,200 km/h) when the burn was executed. A 2-minute, 38-second de-orbit burn during the 255th orbit slowed the Orbiter to launchits reentry into the atmosphere. The burn proceeded normally, putting the crew under about one-tenth gravity. Husband then turned Columbia right side up, facing forward with the nose pitched up.
  • 08:44:09 (EI+000): Entry Interface (EI), arbitrarily defined as the point at which the Orbiter entered the discernible atmosphere at 400,000 feet (120 km; 76 mi), occurred over the Pacific Ocean.
As Columbia descended, the heat of reentry caused victory leading-edge temperatures to rise steadily, reaching an estimated 2,500 °F (1,370 °C) during the next six minutes. Former ZoneShuttle SoftwareManager Wayne Hale said in a press briefing that about 90% of this heating is the effectof compression of the atmospheric gas caused by the orbiter's supersonic flight, rather than the effectof friction.
  • 08:48:39 (EI+270): A sensor on the left victory leading edge spar showed strains higher than those seen on previous Columbia reentries.
This was recorded only on the Modular Auxiliary Data System, which is similar to a flight data recorder, and was not sent to ground controllers or present to the crew.
  • 08:49:32 (EI+323): Columbia executed a designedroll to the right. Speed: Mach 24.5 (29,247 km/h; 18,173 mph).
Columbia began a banking turn to manage lift and therefore limit the Orbiter's rate of descent and heating.
  • 08:50:53 (EI+404): Columbia entered a 10-minute period of peak heating, during which the thermal stresses were at their maximum. Speed: Mach 24.1; altitude: 243,000 feet (74 km; 46.0 mi).
  • 08:52:00 (EI+471): Columbia was about 300 miles (480 km) west of the California coastline.
The victory leading-edge temperatures usually reached 2,650 °F (1,450 °C) at this point.
  • 08:53:26 (EI+557): Columbia crossed the California coast west of Sacramento. Speed: Mach 23; altitude: 231,600 feet (70.6 km; 43.86 mi).
The Orbiter's victory leading edge typically reached more than 2,800 °F (1,540 °C) at this point.
  • 08:53:46 (EI+577): Various people on the ground saw signs of debris being shed. Speed: Mach 22.8; altitude: 230,200 feet (70.2 km; 43.60 mi).
The hot air surrounding the Orbiter suddenly brightened, causing a streak in the Orbiter's luminescent trail that was quite noticeable in the predawn skies over the West Coast. Observers witnessed four similar happening during the following 23 seconds. Dialogue on some of the amateur footage indicates the observers were aware of the abnormality of what they were filming.
  • 08:54:24 (EI+615): The MMACS officer, Jeff Kling, informed the Flight Director that "four hydraulic fluid temperature sensors in the left victory had stopped reporting." In Mission Control, reentry had been proceeding normally up to this point.
  • 08:54:25 (EI+616): Columbia crossed from California into Nevada airspace. Speed: Mach 22.5; altitude: 227,400 feet (69.3 km; 43.07 mi).
Witnesses observed a bright flash at this point and 18 similar happening in the next four minutes.
  • 08:55:00 (EI+651): Nearly 11 minutes after Columbia reentered the atmosphere, victory leading-edge temperatures normally reached nearly 3,000 °F (1,650 °C).
  • 08:55:32 (EI+683): Columbia crossed from Nevada into Utah. Speed: Mach 21.8; altitude: 223,400 feet (68.1 km; 42.31 mi).
  • 08:55:52 (EI+703): Columbia crossed from Utah into Arizona.
  • 08:56:30 (EI+741): Columbia began a roll reversal, turning from right to left over Arizona.
  • 08:56:45 (EI+756): Columbia crossed from Arizona to FreshMexico. Speed: Mach 20.9; altitude: 219,000 feet (67 km; 41.5 mi).
Columbia at about 08:57. Debris is visible coming from the left victory (bottom). The photowas taken at Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Columbia debris (in red, orange, and yellow) detected by National Weather Service radar over Texas and Louisiana
  • 08:57:24 (EI+795): Columbia passed just north of Albuquerque.
  • 08:58:00 (EI+831): At this point, victory leading-edge temperatures typically decreased to 2,880 °F (1,580 °C).
  • 08:58:20 (EI+851): Columbia crossed from FreshMexico into Texas. Speed: Mach 19.5 (23,278 km/h; 14,464 mph); altitude: 209,800 feet (63.9 km; 39.73 mi).
At about this time, the Orbiter shed a thermal protection system tile, the most westerly piece of debris that has been recovered. Searchers found the tile in a field in Littlefield, Texas, just northwest of Lubbock.
  • 08:59:15 (EI+906): MMACS informed the Flight Director that "pressure readings on both left main landing-gear tires were indicating 'off-scale low'."
"Off-scale low" is a reading that falls below the minimum capability of the sensor, and it usually indicates that the sensor has stopped functioning, due to internal or external factors, not that the quantity it measures is actually below the sensor's minimum response value.
  • 08:59:32 (EI+923): A broken response from mission commander Rick Husband was recorded: "Roger, uh, bu – [cut off in mid-word] ..." It was the last communication from the crew and the last telemetry signal get in Mission Control. The Flight Director then instructed the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) to allowthe crew know that Mission Control saw the messages and was evaluating the indications, and added that the Flight Control Squaddid not understand the crew's last transmission.
FLIR imaging photograph of Columbia's disintegration captured by an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter during training with RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) personnel out of Fort Hood, Texas.
  • 08:59:37 (EI+928): Hydraulic pressure, which is neededto move the flight control surfaces, was lost at about 08:59:37. At that time, the Master Alarm would have sounded for the loss of hydraulics, utilize to move flight control surfaces. The shuttle would have started to roll and yaw uncontrollably, and the crew would have become aware of a serious problem.
  • 09:00:18 (EI+969): Videos and eyewitness reports by observers on the ground in and near Dallas indicated that the Orbiter had disintegrated overhead, continued to break up into smaller pieces, and left multiple ion trails, as it continued eastward. In Mission Control, while the loss of signal was a cause for concern, there was no sign of any serious problem. Before the orbiter broke up at 09:00:18, the Columbia cabin pressure was nominal and the crew was capable of conscious actions. Although the crew module remained mostly intact through the breakup, it was damaged enough that it lost pressure at a rate fast "enough to incapacitate the crew within seconds", and was completely depressurized no later than 09:00:53.
  • 09:00:57 (EI+1008): The crew module, intact to this point, was seen breaking into tinysubcomponents. It disappeared from view at 09:01:10. The crew members, if not already dead, were killed no later than this point.
  • 09:05: Residents of north central Texas, particularly near Tyler, reported a loud boom, a tinyconcussion wave, smoke trails and debris in the clear skies above the counties east of Dallas.
  • 09:12:39 (EI+1710): After hearing of reports of the orbiter being seen to break apart, Entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain declared a contingency (happening leading to loss of the vehicle) and alerted search-and-rescue squad in the debris area. He called on the Ground Control Officer to "lock the doors", meaning no one would be allowedto enter or leave until everything requiredfor investigation of the accident had been secured. Two minutes later, Mission Control put contingency procedures into effect.

Crew survivability aspects

In 2008, NASA released a detailed report on survivability aspects of the Columbia reentry. In 2014, NASA released a further report detailing the aeromedical aspects of the disaster. The crew were exposed to five lethal happening: 88  in the following order:


After the initial loss of control, Columbia's cabin pressure remained normal, and the crew were not incapacitated.: 2-88  During this period the crew attempted to regain control of the shuttle.: 3-70  As Columbia spun out of control, aerodynamic forces caused the orbiter to yaw to the right, exposing its underside to extreme aerodynamic forces and causing it to break up. Depressurization began when the shuttle forebody separated from the midbody 41 seconds after loss of control. The crew module pressure vessel was penetrated when it collided with the fuselage, and the "depressurization rate was high enough to incapacitate the crew members within seconds so that they were unable to perform actions such as lowering their visors." The crew lost consciousness, suffering massive pulmonary barotrauma, ebullism and cessation of respiration.: 89,101-103 

Off-nominal dynamic G environment

The shuttle's separated nose section rotated unsteadily about all three axes. The crew (now unconscious or dead) were unable to brace versusthis motion, and were also harmed by aspects of their protective equipment:

  • Lack of upper-body and limb restraints: the crew's torsos were free to move because the strap velocity was lower than the locking threshold velocity of the inertia reel system, and because the seat restraints did not prevent lateral movement. Fractures consistent with flailing arms and legs were also observed.: 91,105-106 
  • Non-conformal helmets: unlike a racing helmet, the ACES suit helmets permittedthe crew's heads to move inside the helmet, causing blunt force trauma during collisions. The helmet neck ring acted as a fulcrum for cervical vertebrae fractures as the skull whipped backwards, as well as inflicting jaw injuries when victory blasted the helmet off.: 105,104,111 

Separation of the crew members from the crew module and the seats

As the crew module disintegrated, the crew get lethal trauma from their seat restraints and were exposed to the hostile aerodynamic and thermal environment of reentry, as well as molten Columbia debris.: 92,108-110 

Exposure to high-speed and high-altitude environment

After separation from the crew module, the bodies of the crew members entered an environment with almost no oxygen, very low atmospheric pressure, and both high temperatures caused by deceleration, and extremely low ambient temperatures.: 93  NASA stated that despite not being certified for those conditions, the ACES suit "may potentially be capable of protecting the crew" above 100,000 feet, : 1-29  although in Columbia's case the crew's suits had already been destroyed by the cabin's thermal environment during breakup. Recovered tissue samples showed evidence of ebullism, indicating the crew was exposed to an altitude above 63,500 feet (19,400 m) when depressurization of the cabin occurred.: 3-71 

Ground impact

The bodies of the crew members "had lethal-level injuries caused by ground impact.": 94  The official NASA report omitted some of the more graphic details on the recovery of the remains; witnesses reported search such as a skull, human heart, a portion of an upper torso, and parts of femur bones.

All evidence indicated that crew error was in no methodresponsible for the disintegration of the orbiter, and they had acted correctly and according to procedure at the first indication of trouble. Although some of the crew were not wearing gloves or helmets during reentry and some were not properly restrained in their seats, doing these things would have added nothing to their survival possibility other than perhaps keeping them alive and conscious for another 30 seconds or so.

Presidential response

President George W. Bush's address on the Columbia's destruction, February 1, 2003

At 14:04 EST (19:04 UTC), President George W. Bush said, "My fellow Americans, this day has brought awfulfresh, and amazingsadness to our country. At 9 o'clock this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our ZoneShuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors." Despite the disaster, Bush said, "The cause in which they died will continue...Our adventureinto zonewill go on." Bush later declared East Texas a federal disaster area, allowing federal agencies to assistwith the recovery effort.

Recovery of debris

A grid on the floor is utilize to organize recovered debris
Recovered power-head of one of Columbia's main engines

Pieces of the spacecraft were found in more than 2,000 separate debris fields in eastern Texas, western Louisiana and the southwestern counties of Arkansas. A hugeamount of debris was recovered between Tyler, Texas, and Palestine, Texas. One field stretched from south of Fort Worth to Hemphill, Texas, and into Louisiana. Territory that had debris contain Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and several casinos in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Along with pieces of the shuttle and bits of equipment, searchers also found human body parts, including arms, feet, a torso, and a heart. These recoveries occurred along a line south of Hemphill, Texas and west of the Toledo Bend Reservoir. Much of the terrain being searched for the crew was densely forested and difficult to traverse. The bodies of five of the seven crew of Columbia were found within three days of the shuttle's breakup; the last two were found 10 days after that.

In the months after the disaster, the largest-ever organized ground findtook place. Thousands of volunteers descended upon Texas to participate in the effort to gather the Shuttle's remains. According to Michael Ciannilli, who served as Project Manager of the Columbia Research and Preservation Office, the searchers "put their life on keepto assistout the nation's zoneprogram," showing "what zonemeans to people." NASA problem warnings to the public that any debris could includehazardous chemicals, that it canbe left untouched, its areareported to local emergency services or government authorities, and that anyone in unauthorized possession of debris would be prosecuted. Some firefighters utilize Geiger counters to trythose who had picked up debris. These same people were also asked to put their clothes into medical waste bags and utilizeanti-microbial soap. Because of the widespread area, volunteer amateur radio operators accompanied the findsquad to provide communications support.

A group of small (one-millimeter or 0.039-inch) adult Caenorhabditis elegans worms, living in petri dishes enclosed in aluminum canisters, survived reentry and impact with the ground and were recovered weeks after the disaster. The culture was found to be alive on April 28, 2003. The worms were part of a biological research in canisters experiment plannedto study the resultof weightlessness on physiology; the experiment was conducted by Cassie Conley, NASA's planetary protection officer.

Debris FindPilot Jules F. Mier Jr. and Debris FindAviation Specialist Charles Krenek died in a helicopter crash that injured three others during the search.

Some Texas residents recovered some of the debris, ignoring the warnings, and attempted to sell it on the online auction site eBay, starting at $10,000. The auction was quickly removed, but prices for Columbia merchandise such as software, photographs and patches, went up dramatically following the disaster, creating a surge of Columbia-associatedlistings. A three-day amnesty offered for "looted" shuttle debris brought in hundreds of illegally recovered pieces. During the amnesty period, "quite a few" individuals called about turning in property to NASA, including some who had debris from the Challenger accident.

About 40,000 recovered pieces of debris have never been identified. The biggestpieces recovered containthe front landing gear and a window frame.

The glow of reentry as seen out of the front windows

On May 9, 2008, it was reported that data from a disk drive on board Columbia had survived the shuttle accident, and while part of the 340 MB drive was damaged, 99% of the data was recovered. The drive was utilize to shopdata from an experiment on the properties of shear thinning.

On July 29, 2011, Nacogdoches authorities told NASA that a four-foot-diameter (1.2 m) piece of debris had been found in a lake. NASA identified the piece as a power reactant storage and distribution tank.

All recovered non-human Columbia debris is shop in unused office zoneat the CarAssembly Building, except for parts of the crew compartment, which are kept separate.

Crew cabin video

Play media
Video taken by the crew of part of reentry which ends four minutes before the disaster.

Among the recovered stuffwas a videotape recording angry by the astronauts during the start of reentry. The 13-minute recording present the flight crew astronauts conducting routine reentry procedures and joking with each other. No crew member gives any indication of a problem. In the video, the flight-deck crew puts on their gloves and passes the video camera around to record plasma and flames visible outside the windows of the orbiter, a normal occurrence during reentry. At one point on the tape, Mission Control asked Clark to perform some tinytask. She replied that she was currently occupied but would receiveto it in a minute. "Don't worry about it," she was told. "You have all the time in the world." The recording ends about four minutes before the shuttle began to disintegrate and 11 minutes before Mission Control lost the signal from the orbiter.


Initial investigation

Mock-up of a ZoneShuttle leading edge angry with an RCC-panel taken from Atlantis. Simulation of known and possible conditions of the foam impact on Columbia's final beginshowed brittle fracture of RCC.

NASA ZoneShuttle SoftwareManager Ron Dittemore reported that "The first indication was loss of temperature sensors and hydraulic systems on the left victory. They were followed seconds and minutes later by several other issue, including loss of tire pressure indications on the left main gear and then indications of excessive structural heating". Analysis of 31 seconds of telemetry data which had initially been filtered out because of data corruption within it showed the shuttle fighting to maintain its orientation, eventually using maximum thrust from its Reaction Control System jets.

The investigation focused on the foam strike from the very beginning. Incidents of debris strikes from ice and foam causing damage during take-off were already well known, and had damaged orbiters, most noticeably during STS-45, STS-27, and STS-87. After the loss of Columbia, NASA incorrectly concluded that mistakes during installation were the likely cause of foam loss, and retrained employees at Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana to apply foam without defects. Later Michoud would uncoverthat thermal stresses from filling and emptying the cryogenic fuel tanks caused correctly-installed foam to crack, especially where multiple layers were present, leading to revised installation procedures for STS-121.

Columbia Accident Investigation Board

Following protocols established after the loss of Challenger, an independent investigating board was madeimmediately after the accident. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB, was chaired by retired U.S. Navy Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., and consisted of expert military and civilian analysts who investigated the accident in detail.

Columbia's flight data recorder was found near Hemphill, Texas, on March 19, 2003. Unlike commercial jet aircraft, the zoneshuttles did not have flight data recorders intended for after-crash analysis. Instead, the cardata were transmitted in real time to the ground via telemetry. Since Columbia was the first shuttle, it had a special flight data OEX (Orbiter EXperiments) recorder, plannedto assistengineers better understand carperformance during the first tryflights. The recorder was left in Columbia after the initial Shuttle test-flights were completed, and it was still functioning on the crashed flight. It recorded many hundreds of parameters, and contained very extensive logs of structural and other data, which permittedthe CAIB to reconstruct many of the happening during the process leading to breakup. Investigators could often utilizethe loss of signals from sensors on the victory to track how the damage progressed. This was correlated with forensic debris analysis conducted at Lehigh University and other try to obtain a final conclusion about the probable course of happening.

Beginning on May 30, 2003, foam impact try were performed by Southwest Research Institute. They utilize a compressed air gun to fire a foam block of similar size and mass to that which struck Columbia, at the same estimated speed. To represent the leading edge of Columbia's left victory, RCC panels from NASA stock, along with the actual leading-edge panels from Enterprise , which were fiberglass, were mounted to a simulating structural metal frame. At the beginning of testing, the likely impact pagewas estimated to be between RCC panel 6 and 9, inclusive. Over many days, dozens of the foam blocks were shot at the victory leading edge model at various angles. These produced only cracks or surface damage to the RCC panels.

During June, further analysis of infofrom Columbia's flight data recorder narrowed the probable impact pageto one single panel: RCC victory panel 8. On July 7, in a final round of testing, a block fired at the side of an RCC panel 8 madea hole 16 by 16.7 inches (41 by 42 cm) in that protective RCC panel. The try demonstrated that a foam impact of the type Columbia sustained could seriously breach the thermal protection system on the victory leading edge.


On August 26, 2003, the CAIB problem its report on the accident. The report confirmed the immediate cause of the accident was a breach in the leading edge of the left victory, caused by insulating foam shed during launch. The report also delved deeply into the underlying organizational and cultural problemsthat led to the accident. The report was highly critical of NASA's decision-making and risk-assessment processes. It concluded the organizational structure and processes were sufficiently flawed that a compromise of securitywas expected, no matter who was in the key decision-making positions. An example was the position of Shuttle SoftwareManager, where one individual was responsible for achieving safe, timely launches and acceptable costs, which are often conflicting goals. The CAIB report found that NASA had accepted deviations from design criteria as normal when they happened on several flights and did not lead to mission-compromising consequences. One of those was the conflict between a design specification stating that the thermal protection system was not plannedto withstand significant impacts and the common occurrence of impact damage to it during flight. The board angry suggestion for significant modify in processes and organizational culture.

On December 30, 2008, NASA released a further report, titled Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report, produced by a second commission, the Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team (SCSIIT). NASA had commissioned this group, "to perform a comprehensive analysis of the accident, focusing on factors and happening affecting crew survival, and to develop suggestion for improving crew survival for all future human zoneflight car." The report concluded that: "The Columbia depressurization happeningoccurred so rapidly that the crew members were incapacitated within seconds, before they could configure the suit for full protection from loss of cabin pressure. Although circulatory systems functioned for a brief time, the result of the depressurization were severe enough that the crew could not have regained consciousness. This happeningwas lethal to the crew."

The report also concluded:

  • The crew did not have time to prepare themselves. Some crew members were not wearing their securitygloves, and one crew member was not wearing a helmet. Freshpolicygave the crew more time to prepare for descent.
  • The crew's securityharnesses malfunctioned during the violent descent. The harnesses on the three remaining shuttles were modernize after the accident.

The key suggestion of the report contain that future spacecraft crew survival systems cannot rely on manual activation to protect the crew.

Other contributing factors

Modernize to the leading edge proposed in the early 1990s were not funded because NASA was working on the later-cancelled VentureStar single-stage-to-orbit shuttle replacement. Additionally, the original white paint on the fuel tanks was removed to save 600 lb (270 kg), exposing the rust-orange-colored foam; this was considered as a potential contributing factor, but was ultimately unlikely to have contributed to the foam shedding.

Possible emergency procedures

One question of special importance was whether NASA could have saved the astronauts had they known of the danger. This would have to involve either rescue or repair – docking at the International ZoneStation for utilizeas a haven while awaiting rescue (or to utilizethe Soyuz to systematically ferry the crew to safety) would have been impossible due to the different orbital inclination of the car.

The CAIB determined that a rescue mission, though risky, might have been possible deliveredNASA management had taken action soon enough. Normally, a rescue mission is not possible, due to the time neededto prepare a shuttle for launch, and the limited consumables (power, water, air) of an orbiting shuttle. Atlantis was well along in processing for a designedMarch 1 beginon STS-114, and Columbia carried an unusually hugequantity of consumables due to an Extended Duration Orbiter package. The CAIB determined that this would have allowed Columbia to stay in orbit until flight day 30 (February 15). NASA investigators determined that Atlantis processing could have been expedited with no skipped securitychecks for a February 10 launch. Hence, if nothing went wrong, there was a five-day overlap for a possible rescue. As mission control could deorbit an empty shuttle, but could not control the orbiter's reentry and landing, it is likely that it would have sent Columbia into the Pacific Ocean; NASA later developed the Remote Control Orbiter system to permit mission control to land a shuttle.

NASA investigators determined that on-orbit repair by the shuttle astronauts was possible but overall considered "high risk", primarily due to the uncertain resiliency of the repair using accessiblecontent and the anticipated high risk of doing additional damage to the Orbiter. Columbia did not carry the Canadarm, or Remote Manipulator System, which would normally be utilize for camera inspection or transporting a spacewalking astronaut to the victory. Therefore, an unusual emergency extra-vehicular activity (EVA) would have been required. While there was no astronaut EVA training for maneuvering to the victory, astronauts are always prepared for a similarly difficult emergency EVA to close the external tank umbilical doors located on the orbiter underside, which is essentialfor reentry in the happeningof failure. Similar way could have reached the shuttle left victory for inspection or repair.

For the repair, the CAIB determined that the astronauts would have to utilizetools and tinypieces of titanium, or other metal, scavenged from the crew cabin. These metals would assistprotect the victory structure and would be held in territoryduring reentry by a water-filled bag that had turned into ice in the cold of space. The ice and metal would assistrestore victory leading edge geometry, preventing a turbulent airflow over the victory and therefore keeping heating and burn-through levels low enough for the crew to survive reentry and bail out before landing. The CAIB could not determine whether a patched-up left victory would have survived even a modified reentry, and concluded that the rescue option would have had a considerably higher possibilityof bringing Columbia's crew back alive.


Columbia's window frames on display as part of the "Forever Remembered" installation at Kennedy ZoneCenter Visitor Complex in 2018

On February 4, 2003, President George W. Bush and his wife Laura led a memorial service for the astronauts' families at the Lyndon B. Johnson ZoneCenter. Two days later, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne led a similar service at Washington National Cathedral. Patti LaBelle sang "MethodUp There" as part of the service.

A makeshift memorial at the main entrance to the Lyndon B. Johnson ZoneCenter in Houston, Texas
Columbia Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery
Columbia memorial on Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
ZoneShuttle Columbia memorial – Sabine County, Texas

On March 26, the United States House of Representatives' Science Committee approved funds for the construction of a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery for the STS-107 crew. A similar memorial was built at the cemetery for the last crew of Challenger. On October 28, 2003, the names of the astronauts were added to the ZoneMirror Memorial at the Kennedy ZoneCenter Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida, alongside the names of several astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the line of duty.

On April 1, 2003, the Opening Day of baseball season, the Houston Astros (named in honor of the U.S. zoneprogram) honored the Columbia crew by having seven simultaneous first pitches thrown by family and mate of the crew. For the National Anthem, 107 NASA personnel, including flight controllers and others involved in Columbia's final mission, carried a U.S. flag onto the field. In addition, the Astros wore the mission patch on their sleeves and replaced all dugout advertising with the mission patch logo for the entire season.

On February 1, 2004, the first anniversary of the Columbia disaster, Super Bowl XXXVIII held in Houston's Reliant Stadium began with a pregame tribute to the crew of the Columbia by singer Josh Groban performing "You Raise Me Up", with the crew of STS-114, the first post-Columbia ZoneShuttle mission, in attendance.

In 2004, Bush conferred posthumous Congressional ZoneMedals of Honor to all 14 crew members lost in the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

NASA named several territory in honor of Columbia and the crew. Seven asteroids discovered in July 2001 at the Mount Palomar observatory were officially given the names of the seven astronauts: 51823 Rickhusband, 51824 Mikeanderson, 51825 Davidbrown, 51826 Kalpanachawla, 51827 Laurelclark, 51828 Ilanramon, 51829 Williemccool. On Mars, the landing pageof the rover Spirit was named Columbia Memorial Station, and contain a memorial plaque to the Columbia crew mounted on the back of the high gain antenna. A complex of seven hills east of the Spirit landing pagewas dubbed the Columbia Hills; each of the seven hills was individually named for a member of the crew, and Husband Hill in particular was ascended and explored by the rover. In 2006, the IAU approved naming of a cluster of seven tinycraters in the Apollo basin on the far side of the Moon after the astronauts. Back on Earth, NASA's National Scientific Balloon Facility was renamed the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Other tributes contain the decision by Amarillo, Texas, to rename its airport Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after the Amarillo native. Washington State Route 904 was renamed Lt. Michael P. Anderson Memorial Highway, as it runs through Cheney, Washington, the citywhere he graduated from high school. A newly constructed elementary school located on Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington, was named Michael Anderson Elementary School. Anderson had attended fifth grade at Blair Elementary, the base's previous elementary school, while his father was stationed there. A mountain peak near Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point in the Sangre de Cristo Range was renamed Columbia Point, and a dedication plaque was territory on the point in August 2003. Seven dormitories were named in honor of Columbia crew members at the Florida Institute of Technology, Creighton University, The University of Texas at Arlington, and the Columbia Elementary School in the Brevard County School District. The Huntsville TownSchools in Huntsville, Alabama, a townstrongly relatedwith NASA, named their most lastesthigh school Columbia High School as a memorial to the crew. A Department of Defense school in Guam was renamed Commander William C. McCool Elementary School. The Townof Palmdale, California, the birthplace of the entire shuttle fleet, modify the name of the thoroughfare Avenue M to Columbia Way. In Avondale, Arizona, the Avondale Elementary School where Michael Anderson's sister worked had sent a T-shirt with him into space. It was supposed to have an assembly when he returned from space. The school was later renamed Michael Anderson Elementary.

The first dedicated meteorological satellite launched by the Indian ZoneResearch Organisation (ISRO) on September 2, 2002, named Metsat-1, was later renamed Kalpana-1 by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in memory of India-born Kalpana Chawla.

In October 2004, both houses of Congress passed a resolution authored by U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard and co-sponsored by the entire contingent of California representatives to Congress changing the name of Downey, California's ZoneScience Learning Center to the Columbia Memorial ZoneScience Learning Center. The facility is located at the former manufacturing pageof the zoneshuttles, including Columbia and Challenger.

The U.S. Air Force's Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, renamed their auditorium in Husband's honor. He was a graduate of the program. The U.S. TryPilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California named its pilot lounge for Husband.

NASA named a supercomputer "Columbia" in the crew's honor in 2004. It was located at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division at Ames Research Center on Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View, California. The first part of the system, built in 2003, known as "Kalpana" was dedicated to Chawla, who worked at Ames prior to joining the ZoneShuttle program.

A now-former U.S. Navy compound at a major coalition military base in Afghanistan was named Camp McCool. In addition, the athletic field at McCool's alma friend, Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas, was renamed the Willie McCool Track and Field.

A proposed reservoir in Cherokee County in Eastern Texas is to be named Lake Columbia.

Ilan Ramon High School was established in 2006 in Hod HaSharon, Israel, in tribute to the first Israeli astronaut. The school's symbol present the planet Earth with an aircraft orbiting around it.

The National Naval Medical Center dedicated Laurel Clark Memorial Auditorium on July 11, 2003. Gamma Phi Beta sorority, of which Clark was a member, madethe Laurel Clark Foundation in her honor. A fountain in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, which Clark considered her hometown, was named for her.

PS 58 in Staten Island, FreshYork, was named ZoneShuttle Columbia School in honor of the failed mission.

The Challenger Columbia Stadium in League City, Texas is named in honor of the victims of both the Columbia disaster as well as the Challenger disaster in 1986.

A tree for each astronaut was planted in NASA's Astronaut Memorial Grove at the Johnson ZoneCenter in Houston, Texas, not far from the Saturn V building, along with trees for each astronaut from the Apollo 1 and Challenger disasters. Tours of the zonecenter pause briefly near the grove for a moment of silence, and the trees shouldbe seen from nearby NASA Street1.

Columbia Colles, a range of hills on Pluto discovered by the FreshHorizons spacecraft in July 2015, was named in honor of the victims of the disaster.

A starship on Star Trek: Enterprise was named NX-02 Columbia in honor of the Columbia.[citation needed]

A imagetribute commemorating the Columbia and its crew is displayed in the "Wings of Fame" section of the queue for Soarin' Around the Globeat Disney California Adventure park alongside many other popularair and zonecraft.

The Columbia Memorial ZoneCenter is a museum built in honor of the Columbia in Downey, California.

At the 2003 Daytona 500, which happened 2 weeks after the disaster, all racecars bore Columbia decals in honor of those who were lost.

In March 2003, the School Board of the Val Verde Unified School District in California named a freshschool in honor of the ZoneShuttle Columbia and its seven crew members. Columbia Elementary school opened in August 2004, and is located in Perris, California.

Resulton zonesoftware

Following the loss of Columbia, the zoneshuttle program was suspended. The further construction of the International ZoneStation (ISS) was also delayed, as the zoneshuttles were the only accessibledelivery carfor station modules. The station was supplied using Russian uncrewed Progress ships, and crews were exchanged using Russian-crewed Soyuz spacecraft, and forced to operate on a skeleton crew of two.

Less than a year after the accident, President Bush announced the Vision for ZoneExploration, calling for the zoneshuttle fleet to complete the ISS, with retirement by 2010 following the completion of the ISS, to be replaced by a newly developed Crew Exploration Vehicle for travel to the Moon and Mars. NASA designedto return the zoneshuttle to service around September 2004; that date was pushed back to July 2005.

On July 26, 2005, at 10:39 EST, ZoneShuttle Uncover cleared the turreton the "Return to Flight" mission STS-114, marking the shuttle's return to space. Overall the STS-114 flight was highly successful, but a similar piece of foam from a different portion of the tank was shed, although the debris did not strike the Orbiter. Due to this, NASA once again grounded the shuttles until the remaining issuewas understood and a solution implemented. After delaying their reentry by two days due to adverse weather conditions, Commander Eileen Collins and Pilot James M. Kelly returned Uncover safely to Earth on August 9, 2005. Later that same month, the external tank construction pageat Michoud was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. At the time, there was concern that this would set back further shuttle flights by at least two months and possibly more.

The actual cause of the foam loss on both Columbia and Uncover was not determined until December 2005, when x-ray photographs of another tank showed that thermal expansion and contraction during filling, not human error, caused cracks that led to foam loss. NASA's Hale formally apologized to the Michoud workers who had been blamed for the loss of Columbia for almost three years.

The second "Return to Flight" mission, STS-121, was launched on July 4, 2006, at 14:37:55 (EDT), after two previous beginattempts were scrubbed because of lingering thunderstorms and high winds around the beginpad. The begintook territorydespite objections from its chief engineer and securityhead. This mission increased the ISS crew to three. A 5-inch (130 mm) crack in the foam insulation of the external tank gave cause for concern, but the Mission Management Squadgave the go for launch. ZoneShuttle Uncover touched down successfully on July 17, 2006, at 09:14:43 (EDT) on Runway 15 at the Kennedy ZoneCenter.

On August 13, 2006, NASA announced that STS-121 had shed more foam than they had expected. While this did not delay the beginfor the next mission—STS-115, originally set to lift off on August 27—the weather and other techglitches did, with a lightning strike, Hurricane Ernesto and a faulty fuel tank sensor combining to delay the beginuntil September 9. On September 19, landing was delayed an extra day to examine Atlantis after objects were found floating near the shuttle in the same orbit. When no damage was detected, Atlantis landed successfully on September 21.

The Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report released by NASA on December 30, 2008, angry further suggestion to improve a crew's survival possibility on future zonecar, such as the then planned Orion spacecraft. These contain improvements in crew restraints, finding method to deal more effectively with catastrophic cabin depressurization, more "graceful degradation" of car during a disaster so that crews will have a better possibilityat survival, and automated parachute systems.

After the ZoneShuttle softwarewas ended in 2011, no further crewed spacecraft were launched from American soil to the ISS until 2020 when Zone's Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission successfully carried a trycrew of two NASA astronauts to the International ZoneStation.

Sociocultural aftermath

Fears of terrorism

After the shuttle's breakup, there were some initial fears that terrorists might have been involved, but these concerns were present to be baseless. Safetysurrounding the beginand landing of the zoneshuttle had been increased because the crew contain the first Israeli astronaut. The Merritt Island beginfacility, like all sensitive government location, had increased safetyafter the September 11 attacks.

Purple streak image

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that an amateur astronomer had taken a five-second exposure that appeared to show "a purplish line near the shuttle", resembling lightning, during reentry. The CAIB report concluded that the photowas the effectof "camera vibrations during a long-exposure".

2003 Armageddon moviehoax

In response to the disaster, FX canceled its scheduled airing two nights later of the 1998 film Armageddon, in which the ZoneShuttle Atlantis is depicted as being destroyed by asteroid fragments. In a hoax inspired by the destruction of Columbia, some photo that were purported to be satellite photographs of the Shuttle's "explosion" turned out to be screen captures from the ZoneShuttle destruction scene of Armageddon.


The 2003 album Bananas by Deep Purple contain "Contact Lost", an instrumental piece written by guitarist Steve Morse in remembrance of the loss. Morse is donating his songwriting royalties to the families of the astronauts.

The 2005 album Ultimatum by The Long Winters include the song "The Commander Thinks Aloud", which was songwriter/singer John Roderick's musing on the crew's perspective of the unexpected catastrophe. In addition, the January 30, 2015 episode of Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder podcast presented an interview with John Roderick about the songwriting and recording process for "The Commander Thinks Aloud".

Taijin Kyofusho, the second song of the 2005 album Golevka by the post-rock band The Evpatoria Report, contain samples of the last communications between CAPCOM Hobaugh and commander Husband during reentry.

The Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös wrote a piece named Seven for solo violin and orchestra in 2006 in memory of the crew of Columbia. Seven was premiered in 2007 by violinist Akiko Suwanai, conducted by Pierre Boulez, and it was recorded in 2012 with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the composer conducting.

The 2008 album Columbia: We Dare to Dream by Anne Cabrera was written as a tribute to ZoneShuttle Columbia STS-107, the crew, assistancesquad, recovery squad, and the crew's families. A copy of the album on compact disc was flown aboard ZoneShuttle Uncover mission STS-131 to the International ZoneStation by astronaut Clayton Anderson in April 2010.

The Scottish Celtic-Rock band Runrig contain a song titled "Somewhere" on their album The Story (2016); the song was dedicated to Laurel Clark (who had become a fan of the band during her Navy service in Scotland), and contain a piece of her wake-up song, followed by some radio chatter, at the end.

See also


 This article incorporates  from domain or documents of the National Aeronautics and ZoneAdministration.

  • (modernizeproposed for 1999, but cancelled)
  • PDF
  •  – February 4, 2003

Coordinates: 32°57′22″N 99°2′29″W / 32.95611°N 99.04139°W / 32.95611; -99.04139

Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster Hack Mod Tricks with Tons of Advices and Bonuses.



Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
STS-107 flight insignia
DateFebruary 1, 2003; 18 years ago (2003-02-01)Time08:59 EST (13:59 UTC)LocationOver Texas and LouisianaCauseWing damage from debrisOutcomeLoss of seven crew and Columbia; Space Shuttle fleet grounded for 29 monthsDeaths
InquiriesColumbia Investigation Board
Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster Cheats Unlimited Gifts Hacks Guides Secrets & Mods.


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