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Columbia Shuttle Crew's Death

Columbia Shuttle Crew

The deaths of the crew of the Columbia Space Shuttle:

It defied belief. Americans had already been shocked by the Apollo One fire and the Challenger Shuttle disaster. It seemed impossible that another crew of astronauts could be lost in a catastrophic incident.

Columbia Shuttle

The regularly used Space Shuttle Columbia flew 28 flights and spent nearly 301 days in space, completing 4808 orbits of the earth. Here's lift off for its final mission.

But on the morning of Saturday, February 1, 2002, while re-entering the atmosphere after a 16 day scientific mission in orbit, the shuttle Columbia was destroyed.

This is footage from inside the shuttle in the minutes before the accident, in which the crew is heard talking.

It was later determined by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board that it was because of a hole that was punched into one of the shuttle's wings.

Columbia Shuttle exploding

The hole was made when a piece of insulating form from one of the external fuel tanks peeled off during the launch and hit the wing. Because of the high heat during reentry, hot gases invaded the interior of the wing, destroying its support structure and causing the shuttle to break apart.

The catastrophic event resulted in almost 84,000 pieces of debris…

Columbia Shuttle debris

…scattered across hundreds of miles from northeast Texas into Louisiana.

All seven crew members were killed. Their remains were found inside the craft's nose cap in Sabine County, Texas.

Columbia Shuttle crew gave

The crew's memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey California, site of the shuttle's production…

Columbia Shuttle memorial Space Center

…is the national memorial for the crew members.

Columbia Shuttle crew
Pioneers Of Flight