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Month: February 2003

News: Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up II

[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.

News: Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up

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…