Columbia space shuttle disaster: Remembering seven astronauts lost on Feb. 1, 2003

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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
ABC13 The Vault: Columbia space shuttle disaster
The seven member crew launched on Jan. 16, 2003. On Feb. 1, 2003, the Columbia Space Shuttle broke apart over Texas upon re-entry.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Seven astronauts were tragically killed in Feb. 2003 during the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

The crew launched on Jan. 16, 2003. Onboard were Rick D. Husband, Commander; William C. McCool, Pilot; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist; Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist and Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist.

For 16 days, they worked on 80 experiments, conducting research in physical, life, and space sciences.

They returned on Feb. 1, 2003. An investigation would later determine that tiles damaged during lift-off allowed super-heated atmospheric gasses to penetrate the shuttle's wing during re-entry, causing the ship to become unstable and quickly disintegrate. The crew was not told about any risk and didn't know something was wrong until very late in re-entry, according to ABC News.

The space shuttle broke apart during its return to Earth over Texas.

This time of year marks multiple somber anniversaries for NASA. The Apollo 1 fire that killed three was on Jan. 27, 1967. On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart shortly after takeoff, killing all seven onboard.