Archive for February 1st, 2003

News: Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up II

February 1st, 2003

[Radar Tracking]Continued coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia breaking up:

The image for this entry (which you can click on to enlarge) is from the National Weather Service Radar (Long Range Base Reflectivity) for the Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas) area at the time of the shuttle crash. The area in red is the path the shuttle took (it’s indicated in red as that portion of the image is an hour old at 1622 UTC).

Columbia was launched on the 16th of January on a science mission (where it orbited the Earth for sixteen days), but mainly made headline news because of the presence of the first Israeli astronaut (48 year old Ilan Ramon). His family was staying in the USA, and a Israeli embassy crew have been sent to assist the family. President Bush has called the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to update him on current known facts. There are NO suspicions of any terrorist related activity (the FBI have stated that they are not involved in any investigations) – despite some media reports.

Debris from the shuttle have been found over 120 miles of Texas – people are being warned NOT to approach or touch the debris but the contact the authorities – toxic fumes are generated during re-entry that are hazardous to health (that’s why when a shuttle lands, the “approach crew” are wearing bio-hazard suits). Witnesses in North Texas have said they heard a “big bang” around 2.16UTC (9.16am Texas time) which was around the time that contact with the shuttle was lost and the time at which the shuttle was due to land. It had just begun its re-entry procedure when contact was lost.

It is not known what, if any, affect this disaster will have on the International Space Station where there are currently 3 crewmembers (Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit) – but this is the first time in 42 years that NASA has lost a space crew during the landing stage (the most hazardous and dangerous phrase of any mission).

Shortly after Columbia was launched on the 16th, a piece of insulating foam on its external fuel tank came off and hit the left wing of the shuttle. At the time Leroy Cain (the lead flight director at Mission Control) assured reported that engineers had concluded that any damage to the wing was considered minor and posed no safety hazard – no major damage was suspected to have been made to the 20,000 thermal tiles that help protect the shuttle’s aluminium shell from the hour-long re-entry temperatures which can go as high as 1,600 degrees C (3,000 F).

Neil has a good photograph of the crew, Dave is providing good news coverage, Joni Electric (a Texan) has some good coverage, Nacanowhere also has some good Texan related coverage along with a photograph of some of the debris and Meredith has a few thoughts on the Columbia disaster.
» Read more: News: Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up II

News: Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up

February 1st, 2003

[Image of the shuttle debris]Coverage continued in next post

I know I said I’ll be taking a blogging holiday, but waking up with the news that the Space Shuttle Columbia has broken up on re-entry with the loss of 7 lives still comes to as a shock. It was built in 1978 and was first flown in 1981 (I’ve heard it rumored that this was supposedly the Columbia’s last mission)

I’m watching the BBC News feed at the moment, but it appears that the shuttle lost contact with NASA Florida’s space centre around an hour before it was due to land, and then 15 minutes before it was due to land at 1416 GMT debris was spotted and it seems the shuttle has disintegrated. Earlier indications report that it has not exploded, but NASA has declared a state of emergency and President Bush is returning to the White House to make a statement. It possible that there was a heat-shield failure.

It is extremely unlikely that there are any survivors of mission STS 107 as the shuttle broke up travelling at over 12,500 mph (20,000 kph – around 18 times the speed of sound) over 200,000ft above Texas as it was gliding in to land. Your thoughts please for the families of Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, David Brown, Michael Anderson and the first Israel in space – Ilan Ramon. This was the 113th flight in the program’s 22 years and Columbia’s 28th flight – the last major incident which caused loss of life was the space shuttle Challenger exploding just after lift-off on Jan 28th 1986 (when another seven crew members lost their lives).

More coverage from ABC News, ITV News, MSNBC and many other news organisations – news reports are being gathering in this new ODP category. There are images taken from the mission available at the BBC News site – looking at those pictures helps you realise that there were, in fact, human beings in the shuttle and that they probably were burnt alive and suffered suffication during the last few minutes of their lives.

There is also a good timeline which illustrates what happened when.

Other blog entries: Quinn Macdonalds, Tampa Tantrum, Gamer’s Nook, Bill Egible, Boing Boing, Stupidevilbastard, Jason Defillippo, About D@mn Time, No Prerequisite, Carisenda, Mr. Mist’s Blog, Mouse Musings, From The Orient, Spinneyhead.

17:11: Flags are now flying at half mast at the NASA launch site as it is officially announced the shuttle is “gone”. Kennedy Space Center workers have been told that all work has been cancelled for this weekend. Only essential personnel should report for their duties. Operatives at the Space Center have already started to put folders, printouts and other information into boxes for later data analysis to hopefully find out what went wrong – I’m hearing that the shuttle came in for re-entry at too steep an angle which burnt through the heat shield (and the resulting radioactivity caused by this would have probably caused the last garbled communications from Columbia at 2pm GMT/UTC).

Picture (c) BBC News
Originally posted: 15:58. Updated: 16:16, 16:48, 17:11, 17:32
Coverage continued in next post

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