(WCMH)– At 8:59 a.m., February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members aboard it.
According to NBC News, until the destruction of the space shuttle, the 16-day commission had been considered a success.
After months of investigation, it was determined that a chunk of foam popped free from Columbia’s external fuel tank during launch, and caused a hole in the shuttle’s heat shield along it’s left wing. This left the orbiter vulnerable to superheated atmospheric gases during re-entry.
Commander Rick D. Husband, Pilot William C. McCool, Payload Specialist Michael P. Anderson, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist David M. Brown, Mission Specialist Laurel B. Clark, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon (Israel’s first astronaut) all died when the space shuttle broke apart during re-entry.