Shuttle “Columbia” breaks apart while returning to Earth

“Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on. . . .The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.” –President George W. Bush.

The United States Shuttle Columbia broke apart and was lost today while returning to Earth, killing all seven crew members aboard. Columbia was NASA’s second space shuttle and the first capable of space flight. First launched in 1981, Columbia was completing her 28th mission.

Killed were:

  • Colonel Rick Husband
  • Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson
  • Commander Laurel Clark
  • Captain David Brown
  • Commander William McCool
  • Dr. Kalpana Chawla
  • Colonel Ilan Ramon

The tragedy occurred 17 years and 4 days after the loss of the shuttle Challenger during launch on January 28, 1986. NASA’s shuttle fleet has now been reduced to only three usable orbiters: Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor. The first shuttle, Enterprise, was used only for approach and landing tests in Earth’s atmosphere and is not capable of space flight.

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