The Space Shuttle Columbia

Pause today to remember the Crew of STS-107, who all died on this day 13 years ago, February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia became unstable and disintegrated on re-entry over Texas.  The Crew:

The Flight Commander was Rick D. Husband, a U.S. Air Force colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a previous shuttle during the first docking with the International Space Station on STS-96.

The Pilot was William C. McCool, a 1983 graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and U.S. Navy commander.

The Payload Commander was Michael P. Anderson, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel.  He was also a physicist and mission specialist who was in charge of the science mission.

The Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon was a colonel in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut.

The Mission Specialist was Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-born aerospace engineer who was on her second space mission.  She was the first Indian woman in space.

The Mission Specialist was David M. Brown, a U.S. Navy captain trained as an aviator and flight surgeon. 

The Mission Specialist was Laurel Blair Salton Clark, a U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon. Clark worked on biological experiments.

The Space Shuttle Columbia was named after the poetic designation for the United States of America.  This poetic name (based on Christopher Columbus, thought then as the sole discoverer of America) was meant to be both inclusive and a little bit nostalgic, in the sense that America could be embodied in a name.  Clearly these seven astronauts and mission specialists embodied the best spirit of America, the inclusion of an Indian and Israeli the strongest symbol yet of what America can accomplish when unified to a common purpose. Special thought to William McCool, graduate of the USNA-I pass almost daily the ‘McCool Marker’, a memorial on the grounds of the USNA golf course to celebrate his achievements both as a Naval Aviator but also his accomplishments as a Midshipman, where he served as Captian of the Cross Country team his senior year.  The marker is placed on the cross country course 16 minutes from the finish line of his fastest run on the Navy course.

“As our crew looks back at our beautiful planet and then outwards toward the unknown of space, we feel the importance, today more than any time, of space exploration to all those who are living on Earth. Our flight is the next flight of many in the human exploration of the universe. And finally, we reflect on the last shuttle mission, the great ship Columbia and her crew – Rick, Willie, Mike, K.C., Dave, Laurel and Ilan. We miss them, and we are continuing their mission. God bless them tonight, and God bless their families. Good night.“

- Commander Eileen Collins aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-114, 25 July 2005, remembers the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia.

We miss them too. Godspeed Columbia.