Obit of the Day (Historical): Crew of the Shuttle Columbia (2003)
On February 1, 2003 upon return from its 16-day mission, the space shuttle Columbia (STS-107), the first shuttle ever launched into orbit, disintegrated as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
All seven members of the Columbia’s crew died in the explosion:
Rick Husband - Mission commander, age 46, 2nd shuttle mission
William “Willie” McCool - Shuttle pilot, age 41, 1st shuttle mission
Michael P. Anderson - Payload Commander, age 43, 2nd shuttle mission
Kalpana Chalwa - Mission specialist and robotic arm operator, age 41, 2nd shuttle mission (first Indian American astronaut)
David M. Brown - Mission specialist, age 46, 1st shuttle mission
Laurel Clark - Mission specialist, age 41, 1st shuttle mission
Ilan Ramon - Payload specialist, age 49, 1st shuttle mission (first Israeli astronaut and only non-American to be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor)
After a four-month search for debris across the entire state of Texas (only 38% of the shuttle was recovered) and a simultaneous investigation (led in part by former astronaut Sally Ride) it was determined that the shuttle exploded when part of the heat shield had been torn off the shuttle during launch. The extreme heat from re-entry breached the shuttle’s hull and caused the explosion.
Sources: NASA.gov and Wikipedia
Top image, crew of STS-107, courtesy of NASA via Boston.com:
Top row (l-r): D. Brown, W. McCool, M. Anderson
Bottom row (l-r): K. Chalwa, R. Husband, L. Clark, I. Ramon
Bottom image, mission patch for STS-107, courtesy of NASA
Also on Obit of the Day:
The crew of the shuttle Challenger
The obituary of Roger Boisjoly who tried to prevent the Challenger disaster
The crew of Apollo I
The retirement of the space shuttle program
Sad day for aeronautics.