STS-107 Mission Journal  

STS-107 Mission Journal - Part 6

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Columbia rises to orbit. Image: TV

LEFT: We, too, remember the seven heroes of Columbia: David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, Ilan Ramon.

RIGHT: STS-107 mission patch.

NASA image of STS-107 crew patch.
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  • 01 February 2003 - 11PM EST - From

    If you have film or video evidence that may help NASA's investigation, please phone the space agency at 281/483-3388 or email your report to

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is taking the lead in recovering and securing the Columbia debris. President Bush has ordered flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-staff until Wednesday. World leaders have sent messages expressing their sorrow over the loss of the seven astronauts, and shock and sadness is being felt around the world. Unidentified human remains have been located in Hemphill, Texas. Three committees will be investigating the disaster. More news here.

  • 01 February - 8:20PM EST - We are hearing reports of some suspected human remains being found among the wreckage scattered across Texas. Nothing has been identified. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has been with the astronauts' families. Here's NASA's statement on the catastrophe:

    Space Shuttle Columbia, Seven Crewmembers Lost
    The STS-107 crew: Seated in front are Commander Rick D. Husband, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla and Pilot William C. McCool. Standing are Mission Specialists David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark and Michael P. Anderson, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. NASA photo.Saturday morning over north central Texas, the Space Shuttle Columbia and all seven astronauts were lost during reentry from orbit. Columbia was returning to Kennedy Space Center, Fla. after a 16-day scientific research mission.
    At [8:15AM EST/1315 GMT] Columbia fired its braking rockets and began its descent from orbit. As the shuttle was traveling at 18 times the speed of sound at an altitude of 63,100 meters (207,000 feet), Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas lost communications about [9AM EST/1400 GMT]. Prior to loss of communications there were no indications of abnormal activity with the shuttle's return to Earth appearing normal.
    At KSC, NASA Administrator Sean 0'Keefe and Associate Administrator Bill Readdy met with the astronauts' families, offered condolences and vowed to uncover the cause of the accident and continue with the shuttle program.
    More information will be released as it becomes available.
    Click here to learn how to send NASA photos and videos that may be relevant to the Columbia investigation.

    It is unlikely that NASA will build a replacement orbiter, and all flights are suspended pending the results of the investigation.

  • 01 February - 5:20PM EST - The news conference with Shuttle Program Director Ron Dittemore and Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin is over. Dittemore said that the full resources of the federal government - including the NTSB, FEMA, FBI, and local and state law enforcement, were available to NASA. The FAA and military are also involved. National Guardsmen could be seen cordoning off small pieces of debris around Texas. Flight restrictions have been declared over Louisiana (perhaps to allow search teams to operate?).

  • 01 February - 4:25PM EST - The new conference is in progress. Ron Dittemore expressed confidence that there would be a return to flight as soon as the cause could be determined. He cautioned against jumping to conclusions about tile damage as the cause of the disaster, and noted that there is no way for astronauts to perform EVAs to repair damage outside the payload bay.

    The government stressed that there was no sign of foul play as the cause of the disaster, and the President has ordered all flags to half-staff today. Audio of O'Keefe statement here and here. Video of President Bush speech here and here; audio here..

  • 01 February - 3:50PM - Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore is discussing the tragedy today. The investigation is underway. There is no indication of the crew's fate, but telemetry downlinked from Columbia indicated a loss of hydraulics temperature data from the left wing at 8:53AM EST, as well as a loss of tire pressure data from the left main landing gear. NASA reports:

    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.

    No decision has been made on where the debris will be moved. Meanwhile, the International Space Station crew is expecting a fresh load of supplies which will enable them to stay in orbit until June, if necessary. Of course, they have a Soyuz spacecraft if they need to return to Earth before the resumption of Shuttle flights.

  • 01 February - 3:25PM EST - The news conference keeps getting pushed back. Perhaps 3:30? NASA has released a phone number for anyone who spots debris they feel may be Shuttle wreckage:
    (281) 483-3388 - also the governor of Texas announced a toll-free 800-525-5555 number.

    Debris has been tracked as far south as New Mexico and Louisiana. Officials stress that the wreckage may have toxic residue and should NOT be touched.

  • 01 February - 3PM EST - The NASA news conference scheduled for now has been pushed back 15 minutes. It is due to be more technical than the previous statements.

    Weather services are plotting the airborne debris on radar. Reports indicate that Columbia was in a steep left turn when it broke up at Mach 17. The orbiter executes a series of S-turns when it approaches the landing strip.

  • 01 February - 2:30PM EST - CNN is showing footage of smoking areas on the ground in Texas, possibly burning vegetation. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe spoke at 1PM, and President Bush made a brief address to the nation at 2PM EST. There will be a full news conference at 3PM EST. NASA reports:

    Shuttle Program Manager/Chief Flight Director Briefing - 2PM CST - Saturday, Feb. 1st, 2003 - Johnson Space Center" Image: NASA TV/NewsFromSpace.comA press conference by Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore and Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin will take place from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, beginning at 3 p.m. EST today. The briefing will be carried on NASA TV with two-way question and answer capability from other agency centers.
    A Space Shuttle contingency was declared earlier this morning in Mission Control when communication was lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia during its return to Earth following a 16-day mission.
    Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. 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.
    Flight controllers in Mission Control immediately began the process of securing all information, notes and data pertinent to today's reentry and landing.
    NASA TV is on AMC-2, Transponder 9C, vertical polarization at 85 degrees West longitude, 3880 MHz, with audio at 6.8 MHz.
    NOTE TO PERSONS IN THE AREA: 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. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    NASA TV is available on the web here, here, here, and here.

  • 01 February - 11:10AM EST - Mourning - Flags are flying at half-staff at Kennedy Space Center, and Israeli President Sharon is standing by for more information. President Bush is expected to make a statement this afternoon.

    Keep an eye on the play-by-play links at top right for commentary, and watch live video on NASA TV. Check back later here for more updates.

  • 01 February - 10:30AM EST - President Bush will return to the White House at about noon today. Contact was lost with Columbia at 9AM EST, as it was gliding over north-central Texas at 12,500 miles per hour. Local law enforcement is reporting that they are securing the toxic debris as they find it. NASA reports:

    STS-107 Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, left, and Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla work with the Combustion Module-2 in the SPACEHAB Research Double Module aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. NASA image.
    Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain declared a contingency for the shuttle Columbia at around 8:14 central time this morning [9:14AM EST/1414 GMT] as the shuttle and its seven astronauts headed for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center.
    Columbia fired its braking rockets at 7:16 this morning [8:16AM EST/1316 GMT] and entered the Earth’s atmosphere with all of its systems functioning normally for a landing at the Florida spaceport at 8:16 a.m. [9:16AM EST/1416 GMT].
    But communications were lost with Columbia around 8 o‘clock [9AM EST/1400 GMT] as the orbiter streaked over Texas.
    Contingency procedures remain in effect and landing support officials are currently being dispatched near the Dallas-Forth Worth area to search for possible debris.

    Local video coverage here. Break-up video here. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the astronauts.

  • 01 February - 10:20AM EST - More local residents report debris being sighted in several counties in Texas, and the smell of burning rubber as well. Local law enforcement is advising anyone who may encounter Shuttle debris to STAY AWAY, as it may be toxic (not to mention that the evidence must be preserved). What will this mean for the space program? What of the Expedition 6 crew aboard the International Space Station?

  • 01 February - 10:10AM EST - President Bush is being briefed at Camp David. Columbia was flying at Mach 6 and 200,000 feet over Texas, putting it out of reach of any anti-aircraft missiles - so terrorism seems to be ruled out. Attention is being turned to a piece of debris that may have damaged Columbia's left wing during liftoff. Is it possible that a missing tile on the leading edge could have caused some sort of burn-through? NASA has officially declared Columbia and her crew of seven astronauts to be lost. Pic here.

  • 01 February - 9:55AM EST - Another Shuttle veteran, Jerry Linenger, is now calling in to CNN, describing the sensations of launch and landing, and what could go wrong. NASA has declared a contingency, and is advising mission controllers to gather up all their notes and data.

    (Personal note from Tony: My hands are shaking as I type this - the horror of this situation is not something I ever wanted to feel again, having experienced the Challenger explosion in 1986). Local residents are calling in recounting a loud explosion, like the roar of a freight train, that shook their houses. NASA reports:

    A contingency has been declared. The Human Space Flight Web will be updated with the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

    Keep an eye on the play-by-play links at top right for commentary, and watch live video on NASA TV. Check back later tonight for more updates.

  • 01 February - 9:40AM EST - BREAK-UP! - CNN's Miles O'Brien is speaking with astronaut Norm Thagard, who believes that the plasma trails resemble a spacecraft breaking up. The White House is about to convene a "Domestic Event Conference." Search And Rescue Teams are being dispatched to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. NASA is advising anyone who may come across and debris to STAY AWAY, as toxic substances may be present. Anyone who finds debris should report it to local law enforcement. Columbia was flying at about 200,000 feet over the North-Central Texas area.

  • 01 February - 9:30AM EST - EMERGENCY! - News video shows multiple pieces of debris shooting from the sky over Texas, resembling a meteorite. Columbia was due to land at KSC 15 minutes ago, but no contact has been made since about 9AM EST. NASA has declared an emergency, and local residents report the sound of a loud impact.

  • 01 February - TROUBLE - Mission Control reports a loss of downlink data with Columbia, and Texas residents report a cloud of debris in the air. We fear the worst.

  • 01 February 2003 - Landing Day - DEORBIT BURN! Columbia is on its way home to KSC! So far, they are aimed at Runway 33, but that could change to Runway 15.  NASA reports:

    Space Shuttle Columbia Heads to Florida
    Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla checks ove some equipment yesterday. Image: NASA TV/NewsFromSpace.comAt [8:15AM EST/1315 GMT] today, STS-107 Commander Rick Husband and Pilot Willie McCool fired Space Shuttle Columbia's engines to begin the descent to Florida. Columbia is slated to touch down at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at [9:16M EST/1416 GMT].
    STS-107 is returning home after spending 16 days in orbit conducting more than 80 experiments in a wide range of research areas. In order to accomplish the mission's goals, they worked in split shifts to have 24-hour operations.
    Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, who is the mission's flight engineer, and Laurel Clark are sitting on the flight deck with Husband and McCool. Mission Specialists Michael Anderson and Dave Brown and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon are on the middeck.

    Keep an eye on the play-by-play links at top right for commentary, and watch live video on NASA TV. Check back later tonight for more updates.

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