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STS-107 Shuttle Disaster 2003
Timeline of Events



“The Columbia is lost;
there are no survivors....”


STS 107 Crew members not in order: Commander Rick D. Husband, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla and Pilot William C. McCool, Mission Specialists David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark and Michael P. Anderson, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon.
The STS-107 crew

“ The world mourns...”


STS-107 Shuttle Disaster 2003
Timeline of Events


On the morning of February 1, 2003, NASA lost contact with Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107.

At about 9:00 a.m. EST on February 1, 2003, NASA's Mission Control at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas lost radio contact with the space shuttle Columbia as it descended from 207,000 feet (39 miles) above north central Texas at over 12,500 miles per hour (mach 17) toward its landing destination at Cape Canaveral near the John F. Kennedy Space Center and Jacksonville, Florida. The loss of contact was expected and planned by NASA as a standard consequence of the shuttle passing through the ionosphere. The shuttle was expected to land at 9:16 EST; however it failed to arrive and apparently disintegrated over north central Texas.

At about 9:05 residents of north central Texas (first reports from Palestine, Texas) reported a loud boom, a small concussion wave and contrails and debris in the clear skies above the counties southeast of Dallas. Video recordings show multiple contrails and flaming debris falling from the sky.

NASA declared an emergency and alerted search and rescue teams in the area. Debris fields have been found in sparsely populated areas southeast of Dallas from Nacogdoches, Texas to the southwestern counties of Arkansas. Columbia's crew of six Americans and the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon were killed. The other crew members were: Rick Husband (commander), William McCool (pilot), Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark.

With the addition of the the first Israeli astronaut to the crew, security surrounding the launch and landing of the space shuttle had been increased to avoid any potential terrorist attack.

Because of the high altitude of the shuttle when the incident occurred, it is thought unlikely that terrorist actions were involved. Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the United States Department of Homeland Security, stated that "There is no information at this time that this was a terrorist incident."

Shuttle Crew of Flight STS-107

  • Commander: Rick D. Husband, a U.S. Air Force colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a previous shuttle during the first docking with the International Space Station.
  • Pilot: William C. McCool, a U.S. Naval Commander
  • Mission Specialist: Ilan Ramon, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut.
  • Mission Specialist: Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-born aerospace engineer who had logged a number of previous space missions.
  • Mission Specialist: David M. Brown, a U.S. Navy captain trained as an aviator and flight surgeon. Brown was working on a number of scientific experiments.
  • Payload Specialist: Michael D. Anderson, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and physicist who was in charge of the science mission.
  • Mission Specialist: Laurel Clark, a U.S. Navy commander and flight surgeon. Clark was working on a number of biological experiments.



STS-107 Columbia Shuttle Disaster
February 1, 2003
Timeline of Events


  • February 1, 2003 - NASA STATEMENT ON LOSS OF COMMUNICATIONS WITH COLUMBIA
    A Space Shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control, Houston, as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia at approximately 9 a.m. EST Saturday as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.

    Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time.

    Search and rescue teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth and in portions of East Texas have been alerted. Any debris that is located in the area that may be related to the Space Shuttle contingency should be avoided and may be hazardous as a result of toxic propellants used aboard the shuttle. The location of any possible debris should immediately be reported to local authorities.

    Flight controllers in Mission Control have secured all information, notes and data pertinent to today's entry and landing by Space Shuttle Columbia and continue to methodically proceed through contingency plans.

    More information will be released as it becomes available.



  • 9 a.m. EST - Last words from the Columbia shuttle - “Roger, oh...” Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at an altitude of about 203,000 feet above north central Texas while traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information was received in Mission Control after that time. The shuttle was in a roll reversal operation and all instruments showed no problems just before losing contact. The shuttle was in a good area of data and voice communication coverage.

  • 9:16 a.m. EST - The scheduled time passes for the scheduled landing of STS-107 Columbia shuttle.



  • 2:04 p.m. EST - President George W. Bush addresses the nation on the Space Shuttle Columbia Tragedy. The president's address is the first official confirmation that no crew members survived the shuttle disaster.

    THE PRESIDENT: "My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9:00 a.m. this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors...."


  • 3 p.m. EST - A press conference by Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore and Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin took place at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. At the February 1, 2003 NASA press conference, it was revealed that there was a debris collision to one of the shuttle wings on the shuttle take off. Last voice communication with crew acknowledged there was a problem and the Columbia astronauts saw a problem and no more communications were received from Shuttle Columbia.



NOTE TO PERSONS IN THE AREA: Anyone who believes they have found debris related to Columbia should call the Johnson Space Center Emergency Operations Center, (281)-483-3388. Be aware that hazardous chemicals may be present; do not disturb or move any debris. All debris is United States Government property and is critical to the investigation of the shuttle accident. Any and all debris from the accident is to be left alone and reported to Government authorities.

About Shuttle Mission STS 107



Photo STS-107 lift-off on
January 16, 2003

STS-107 Flight: January 16-February 1, 2003

Crew:

  • Commander Rick D. Husband (second flight),
  • Pilot William C. McCool (first flight),
  • Payload Specialist Michael P. Anderson (second flight),
  • Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla (second flight),
  • Mission Specialist David M. Brown (first flight),
  • Mission Specialist Laurel B. Clark (first flight),
  • Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel (first flight)

Payload:

First flight of SPACEHAB Research Double Module; Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science, Technology, Applications and Research (FREESTAR); first Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) mission since STS-90. This 16-day mission is dedicated to research in physical, life, and space sciences, to be conducted in approximately 80 separate experiments, comprised of hundreds of samples and test points. The seven astronauts worked 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts. 28 flights 1981-2003.

First flight:

April 12-14, 1981 (Crew John W. Young and Robert Crippen)

Most recent flight: STS-109, March 1-12, 2002 Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

Other notable missions:

STS 1 through 5, 1981-1982 first flight of European Space Agency built Spacelab. STS-50, June 25-July 9, 1992, first extended-duration Space Shuttle mission. STS-93, July 1999 placement in orbit of Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Past mission anomaly: STS-83, April 4-8, 1997. Mission was cut short by Shuttle managers due to a problem with fuel cell No. 2, which displayed evidence of internal voltage degradation after the launch.

STS-107 was a space shuttle mission by NASA using the Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission was lost on re-entry on February 1, 2003. See Space Shuttle Columbia disaster for details.

The Mission of the STS-107

This was a multi-disciplinary microgravity and Earth science research mission with a multitude of international scientific investigations conducted continuously during 16 days in orbit.

The central element of the patch is the microgravity symbol, g, flowing into the rays of the astronaut symbol. The mission inclination is portrayed by the 39 degree angle of the astronaut symbol to the Earth's horizon. The sunrise is representative of the numerous experiments that are the dawn of a new era for continued microgravity research on the International Space Station and beyond. The breadth of science and the exploration of space is illustrated by the Earth and stars. The constellation Columba (the dove) was chosen to symbolize peace on Earth and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The seven stars also represent the mission crew members and honor the original astronauts who paved the way to make research in space possible. The Israeli flag is adjacent to the name of the payload specialist who was the first person from that country to fly aboard the Space Shuttle.

Official NASA Mission Schedule

Mission Highlights
Mission: Space Research
Shuttle: Columbia
Launch
Pad:
39A
Launch:

Jan. 16, 2003
9:39 a.m. CST

Window:2 hours,
30 minutes
Landing:Not available
Duration:Not available
Orbital
Insertion
Altitude:
150 nautical
miles
Orbit
Inclination:
39



Planned NASA deorbit map for STS-107
that took place on Orbit 256
on February 1, 2003. Notice the flight path over Texas.


Shuttle Mission STS 107 Crew Biographies



  • Commander: Rick D. Husband, 45, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is a test pilot and veteran of one spaceflight. He will serve as commander for STS-107. Husband received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980 and a master of science in mechanical engineering from California State University-Fresno in 1990. As commander, Husband will be responsible for the overall conduct of the mission. During the mission, he will be maneuvering Columbia as part of several experiments in the shuttle's payload bay that will focus on the Earth and the Sun. He will also be the senior member of the Red Team and will work with the following experiments: European Research In Space and Terrestrial Osteoporosis (ERISTO); Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX); Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit (OSTEO); the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk; and Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE-2). Husband will also land Columbia at the end of the mission. Selected by NASA in December 1994, Husband served as the pilot of STS-96 in 1999 - a 10-day mission during which the crew performed the first docking with the International Space Station. He has logged more than 235 hours in space.


  • Pilot: William C. McCool, 41, a commander in the U.S. Navy, is a former test pilot. He will serve as pilot for STS-107. He received a bachelor of science in applied science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983, a master of science in computer science from the University of Maryland in 1985, and a master of science in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1992. McCool, as a member of the Blue Team, will work with the following experiments: European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); ESA Biopack (eight experiments); Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX); and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk. He will also be responsible for maneuvering Columbia as part of several experiments mounted in the shuttle's payload bay. Selected by NASA in April 1996, McCool will be making his first spaceflight.


  • Payload Commander: Michael P. Anderson, 43, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is a former instructor pilot and tactical officer, and a veteran of one spaceflight. He will serve as Payload Commander and Mission Specialist 3 for STS-107. As payload commander he is responsible for the success (management) of the science mission aboard STS-107. Anderson received a bachelor of science in physics/astronomy from University of Washington in 1981 and a master of science in physics from Creighton University in 1990. Anderson, as a member of the Blue Team, will work with the following experiments: European Space Agency Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Combustion Module (CM-2), which includes the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX); Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM); and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk. Selected by NASA in December 1994, Anderson flew on STS-89 in 1998 - the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. Anderson has logged over 211 hours in space.


  • Mission Specialist 1: David M. Brown, 46, a captain in the U.S. Navy, is a naval aviator and flight surgeon. He will serve as Mission Specialist 1 for STS-107. Brown received a bachelor of science in biology from the College of William and Mary in 1978 and a doctorate in medicine from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982. Brown, as a member of the Blue Team, will work with the following experiments: European Space Agency Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Combustion Module (CM-2), which includes the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX); and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk. Selected by NASA in April 1996, Brown will be making his first spaceflight.


  • Mission Specialist 2: Kalpana Chawla, 41, is an aerospace engineer and an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Chawla will serve as Flight Engineer and Mission Specialist 2 for STS-107. She received a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, in 1982, a master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas-Arlington in 1984, and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1988. As a member of the Red Team, Chawla, with CDR Rick Husband, will be responsible for maneuvering Columbia as part of several experiments in the shuttle's payload bay. Chawla will also work with the following experiments: Astroculture (AST); Advanced Protein Crystal Facility (APCF); Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG_PCF); Biotechnology Demonstration System (BDS); ESA Biopack (eight experiments); Combustion Module (CM-2), which includes the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM); Vapor Compression Distillation Flight Experiment (VCD FE); and the Zeolite Crystal Growth Furnace (ZCG). Selected by NASA in December 1994, Chawla was the prime robotic arm operator on STS-87 in 1997, the fourth U.S. Microgravity Payload flight. STS-87 focused on how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes. Chawla has logged more than 376 hours in space.


  • Mission Specialist 4: Laurel Blair Salton Clark, 41, a commander (captain-select) in the U.S. Navy and a naval flight surgeon, will be Mission Specialist 4 on STS-107. Clark received a bachelor of science in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983 and a doctorate in medicine from the same school in 1987. Clark, as a member of the Red Team, will work with the following experiments: European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Astroculture (AST-1 and 2); Biotechnology Demonstration System (BDS); ESA Biopack (eight experiments); Application of Physical & Biological Techniques to Study the Gravisensing and Response System of Plants: Magnetic Field Apparatus (Biotube-MFA); Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System (CEBAS); Commercial ITA Biological Experiments (CIBX); the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiments Team (MPFE) experiments, which include the Effects of Microgravity on Microbial Physiology and Spaceflight Effects on Fungal Growth, Metabolism and Sensitivity to Antifungal Drugs; Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit (OSTEO); the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk; Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure During Spaceflight (SLEEP); and the Vapor Compression Distillation Flight Experiment (VCD FE). Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark will be making her first spaceflight.


  • Payload Specialist 1: Ilan Ramon, 48, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force, is a fighter pilot who will be the only payload specialist on STS-107. Ramon received a bachelor of science in electronics and computer engineering from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1987. Ramon, as a member of the Red Team, will be the prime crewmember for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX), a multispectral camera that will measure small dust particles (dust aerosols) in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean and the Saharan coast of the Atlantic. He will also be working with the following experiments: European Space Agency Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Astroculture (AST-1 and 2); Biological Research in Canister - Development of Gravity Sensitive Plant Cells in Microgravity (BRIC); Combustion Module (CM-2), which includes the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiments Team (MPFE) experiments, which include the Effects of Microgravity on Microbial Physiology and Spaceflight Effects on Fungal Growth, Metabolism and Sensitivity to Anti-fungal Drugs; the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which includes Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk; and Space Technology and Research Students Bootes (STARS Bootes). Ramon was selected as a Payload Specialist by the Israeli Air Force in 1997 and approved by NASA in 1998. He reported for training at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in July 1998 and will be making his first spaceflight.
External Link: Nasa Home Page


Background information on previous Manned-Space-Travel related disasters

Crew Members of Space Shuttle Challenger  - STS-51-L
Crew Members of Space
Shuttle Challenger - STS-51-L

Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after take-off in 1986

Shuttle Orbiter Challenger (NASA Designation: OV-99) was a Space Shuttle orbiter constructed using a body frame that had initially been produced for use as a test article.

The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed during the launch of mission 51-L on January 28, 1986. An O-Ring seal on the right solid rocket booster began leaking due to a combination of poor inspection and low environmental temperature at the launch site, spraying hot gases onto its attachment point to the main fuel tank and causing structural failure 73 seconds after liftoff. The booster rocket broke free and slammed into the external fuel tank, rupturing it. The shuttle stack was then ripped apart by aerodynamic forces, and the external tank's fuel ignited into a fireball. Although there is some small evidence that members of the crew may have survived the Shuttle's initial breakup, cabin pressurization was lost and at the altitude where the breakup took place all crewmembers would have died from lack of oxygen before the free-falling crew cabin struck the Atlantic Ocean.

The crew of mission 51-L was
  • Greg Jarvis, Payload Specialist 1
  • Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist 2
  • Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist 3
  • Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist 2
  • Judith A. "Judy" Resnick, Mission Specialist 1
  • Michael J. Smith, Pilot
  • Dick Scobee, Commander

The Challenger accident caused a long hiatus in shuttle launches. There was also a long investigation into the technical and managerial factors that contributed to the accident; the Shuttle had not been rated to fly in the temperatures of the launch but that concern had been overriden, and the SRB O-rings had been found to be unexpectedly eroded in previous inspections. Reforms to NASA procedures were enacted to prevent another occurrence of such an accident.



Apollo-1 fire on the launch pad on January 27, 1967

On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.

A seven-member board, under the direction of the NASA Langley Research Center Director, Dr. Floyd L. Thompson, conducted a comprehensive investigation to pinpoint the cause of the fire. The final report, completed in April 1967 was subsequently submitted to the NASA Administrator. The report presented the results of the investigation and made specific recommendations that led to major design and engineering modifications, and revisions to test planning, test discipline, manufacturing processes and procedures, and quality control. With these changes, the overall safety of the command and service module and the lunar module was increased substantially. The AS-204 mission was redesignated Apollo I in honor of the crew.


Crew of the Apollo 1

Crew:
  • Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
  • Edward Higgins White, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
  • Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lieutenant Commander, USN

From the NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA History Office, NASA. Headquarters, Washington, DC. Excerpts from The Apollo 204 Report

The thorough investigation by the Apollo 204 Review Board of the Apollo accident determined that the test conditions at the time of the accident were "extremely hazardous." However, the test was not recognized as being hazardous by either NASA or the contractor prior to the accident. Consequently, adequate safety precautions were neither established nor observed for this test. The amount and location of combustibles in the command module were not closely restricted and controlled, and there was no way for the crew to egress rapidly from the command module during this type of emergency nor had procedures been established for ground support personnel outside the spacecraft to assist the crew. Proper emergency equipment was not located in the "white room" surrounding the Apollo command module nor were emergency fire and medical rescue teams in attendance.

There appears to be no adequate explanation for the failure to recognize the test being conducted at the time of the accident as hazardous. The only explanation offered the committee is that NASA officials believed they had eliminated all sources of ignition and since to have a fire requires an ignition source, combustible material, and oxygen, NASA believed that necessary and sufficient action had been taken to prevent a fire.

Of course, all ignition sources had not been eliminated.

The Apollo 204 Review Board reported that it took approximately 5 minutes to open all hatches and remove the two outer hatches after the fire was reported; that the first firemen arrived about 8 to 9 minutes after the fire was reported and that the first medical doctors did not arrive until about 12 minutes or more after the fire was reported. Thus there was not expert medical opinion available on opening the hatch to determine the condition of the three astronauts although medical opinion based on autopsy reports concluded that chances for resuscitation decresed rapidly once consciousness was lost and that resuscitation was impossible by the time the hatch was opened.

It is clear from the Board's report and the testimony before the committee that this kind of accident was completely unexpected; that both NASA and the contractor were completely unprepared for it despite the amount of documentation of fire hazards in pure oxygen environments. The committee can only conclude that NASA's long history of successes in testing and launching space vehicles with pure oxygen environments at 16.7 p.s.i. and lower pressures led to overconfidence and complacency.

"The Apollo 204 accident was a tragic event in the nation's space program. Because of it there has been a thorough analysi and review of all aspects of the Apollo program. Consequently many changes have been made in the Apollo system design, operations, management, and procedures and NASA expects this will result in an improved spacecraft and booster system. The committee's review of the accident found nothing which would make the committee question this expectation. It is the committee's hope that the remainder of the program will be carried out with greater understanding and dedication than if there had been no accident. The total impact of the Apollo 204 accident on the Apollo program is not yet known. In continuing its close surveillance over the Apollo program, your committee will be especially mindful of the impact of the accident on program schedules and cost, and on the effectiveness of the changes in management and operations made by NASA during the past several months."
Reference: NASA History of the Apollo space program


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