Columbia: America's Flagship.

I fell back. I turned the tv on, I saw the footage on CNN and I fell backward onto the red leather sofa. Another national tragedy was unfolding before my eyes and I could not believe it. My heart grew heavy and I knew that this would be a massive setback for U.S. human spaceflight. More importantly, I realized that seven of the world’s greatest human beings had lost their lives.

Nine years ago today, the world’s first true rocket ship, Columbia, was lost in an accident. When space shuttle Columbia lifted off 16 days earlier from Cape Canaveral, FL, a large chunk of foam had struck the orbiter’s heat shield, creating a gash from which she would never heal. NASA administrators and launch technicians didn’t believe the incident posed a threat because falling pieces of foam was a routine component of the previous 113 shuttle launches.

Upon reentry, Columbia encountered the usual effects of atmospheric drag and compression. Intense heat and plasma encapsulated the orbiter as she descended at a speed of Mach 25; however, the 2,800 degree heat was no match for the ship. Sixteen minutes before landing in Florida, the heat penetrated the  thermal shield, ultimately leading to her destruction. Debris would later fall over parts of Texas and Louisana.

When I think of Columbia, I try not to think of the ill-fated STS-107 mission. Instead, I remember that she was America’s flagship. Here is 1981 video footage of the moments leading up to the first mission and landing.

Her mission was to deliver hope, prosperity and a new perspective on how big humans can dream. Mission: Accomplished. Hail Columbia.

January 16, 2003 Final Flight of Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 launched from Kennedy Space Center 11 for a 16-day microgravity research mission in orbit around the planet. After covering 10,600,000 km (6,600,000 miles) and completing 255 orbits, Columbia and its seven-member crew were lost on February 1, 2003 when the orbiter disintegrated during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Investigators determined the failure was caused by a piece of foam that broke off during launch and damaged the thermal protection system components on the leading edge of the left wing of the orbiter. During reentry the damaged wing slowly overheated and came apart, eventually leading to lost of control and disintegration of the vehicle.
Image Credit: NASA/STS-107

#space #nasa #shuttle #columbia #flight #ksc #sts107 #science #history


Astronaut Kalpana Chawla would have turned 51 today.

Kalpana still inspires women to dream today - as she did, in the literal meaning of her name. 

From this article written by Pameljit Kaur Kalra:

Kalpana dared to dream a dream so different from everyone around. In Kalpana’s own words, “It was very far-fetched to think I’d get to fly on the space shuttle - because I lived in India, in a very small town. And forget about space, I didn’t even know if my folks were going to let me go to the engineering college.” From Karnal to Space, the journey seems formidably long. But she achieved it. Her success, in my opinion does not come from the fact that she went to space. It comes from her struggle against what her context was during that time to make a fantasy come true. 

Whenever I think that something is too grand to dream about, I think of the petite woman who harbored dreams of going to space one day. And that is when; I regain my child-like enthusiasm for life, the courage to dream bigger than I can possibly think and the perseverance to make that a reality.

someone at work essentially asked me why I even care about the Columbia accident

"What, did it affect you on a personal level?”

First of all, define what you mean by that. Are you asking me if it affected me on a personal level because I was directly, immediately, physically affected by the accident? Or are you asking if I was affected by it on a personal, emotional level, because it spoke to something inside of me and moved me?

If you meant the latter, then yes, sir, it did affect me on a very personal level. 

That comment from my co-worker threw me so off-guard. It almost felt condescending, as if he were saying, “Why in the world would you care about that? No one remembers that!” (When I mentioned the anniversary was coming up on Friday, it took them several seconds for them to figure out what I was talking about. Clearly, some people have forgotten.)

Let’s put this in a bit of perspective. Allow me to ask you this — are you affected on a personal level when your favorite sports team loses a game? Do you lose money or months of training when that team loses? Then why do you have any reason to be upset when they do lose? It’s because it’s emotional — there is something about it that you are tied to on a deep emotional level. It may not be directly affecting you, but in many ways, it is.

Except, losing seven souls in space flight is vastly different than a sports team losing a game. There is the loss of human life involved.

And you ask me if I was personally affected by this mission.

I may have not lost a family member in that accident, as seven families had the horror of experiencing. But my heart is tied, married, you could say, to the space program — this mission, the ill-fated STS-107, is what helped to spark that deep and driving love I have of space exploration and human spaceflight.

That is why I care. That is why I will never forget.


Rick Douglas Husband, Columbia’s final commander, would have turned 55 today.

Rick was a colonel in the Air Force who had dreams of flying into space since he was four years old. His determination and perseverance, deep faith in God, and the support from his family helped him achieve that dream and so much more.

He flew into space twice. Though he never returned home on his second flight, of which he was the commander, he did in fact make it home to meet his Heavenly Father.

His good friend from England, Angus MacLane, said these words of him:

He was a great patriot. He loved his country and would never speak ill of someone else’s country. He was thrilled to be part of the space program but loved his family more. He was aware of his faults but the last person to tell you of your faults…

He was totally committed to the things of God. He made people feel as if they mattered. When you were with Rick, he made you feel as though you were the most important person at that moment. He saw himself as someone who had put his faith in God, and God had done wonderful things through him…

He spoke nothing but praise for every crew member. He said, “They’re the best of the best.” Whatever the unknowns are, I know with certainty that Rick stands in heaven with his Savior, Jesus Christ.

(quoted from “High Calling” by Evelyn Husband)


I named my car Sally Ride and I bought her a present last week.

all that’s left is to upgrade my plain old FL plate to a custom Challenger/Columbia plate, but I think I’ll wait until next year when I go to register her again.


Was anyone else aware of this? I had no idea it was a thing until I saw it tweeted by someone, and now I kinda have to see it. It says it’ll be airing on PBS Orlando on Feb 1, so I’m gonna see about DVRing it if I can get it. ;u;