The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Remembering Space Shuttle Columbia's Crew 11 Years After Their Loss

Remembering 11 years ago ...
On February 2, 2003, at 9:00 AM, the space shuttle Columbia tore itself to pieces 39 miles above Texas, a mere 16 minutes ... an eternity it would turn out ... from what was expected to be a routine landing on the Florida runway specially built for shuttle touchdowns. What happened was later confirmed and redesigns were undertaken. A chunk of foam had fallen away from the large external fuel tank, striking the shuttle's wing. Heat tiles were lost and the loss was undetected. The 3,000 degree heat of reentry entered into the shuttle's wing structure ... and the craft broke apart in a fireball over Texas, killing her crew of seven.

The crewmembers were: Rick D. Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William C. McCool, David M. Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael P. Anderson, and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. We commemorate your courage and your desire to advance our skills and knowledge on that final frontier. We remember your families, gathered in Florida to welcome you home, twelve children among them. We stand by them in their collective grief and pray for them as the years roll by.

The photos here are of the coverage that day in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, whose staff did an excellent job with the story while we collectively were recovering from shock and grieving. I had forgotten we had kept that paper until it resurfaced on February 2 of this year. How appropriate. Due to my current schedule, this posting is late. But, better it be late than never to occur.


Personally, I remember coming downstairs. The TV was on. That horrid scene over Texas was playing again and again. As soon as I understood what was happening, I yelled, "No, no, not again, no!" Our young daughter ran over and threw her arms around me. It's one of those days you don't soon forget.

Once the shuttles flew again, a new, intricate ballet was performed in space, with the team on the International Space Station inspecting the craft for any signs of damage as it performed a slow and graceful series of maneuvers flying next to the ISS. No further death and destruction occurred during the rest of the shuttle flights with the twice diminished fleet.

In the future, all spacecraft carrying humans will place their most valuable cargo, those precious people, at the very top of the rocket stack where no object will ever again fall away from the craft to damage the crew's ride home.

For other posts about the Space Shuttle fleet, see:, and You'll find these posts more joyous and uplifting. Still, from time to time we do need to step back, stop, and remember our fallen heroes. 

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