- Posted January 31, 2013 by
Cape Canaveral, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Light Years: Your view of space and stars
America remembers shuttle Columbia and crew
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Kennedy Space Center will pause Friday to remember seven astronauts who perished ten years ago to the day as their stricken space shuttle returned to earth.
Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on February 1, 2003, over north Texas as she re-entered the earth's atmosphere.
Launched on January 16, Columbia was hit by a large fragment of insulation foam from the top half of her rust-colored external fuel tank just 81 seconds into launch.
Unknown to the space agency at the time, the fragment slammed into the shuttle's left wing leading edge and punched a hole.
Two weeks later, hot gases from Columbia's reentry into the atmosphere filled the spacecraft's fuselage and caused her to break apart. The entire crew were lost.
Columbia sailed upon the vast ocean of space twenty-eight times, traveling 125,204,911 miles and circling our earth 4,808 times in the minutes before her destructive loss.
At the massive Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy's visitor center, guests and several of the crew's family members will pause for a moment of silence on Feb. 1, and lay a wreath in honor of the crew.
The names of twenty-four fallen astronauts are blazoned upon the mirror's black granite, including those of Columbia's commander Rick D. Husband and crew William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark and Ilan Ramon.
This aerospace journalist was fortunate to have spent several years photographing and covering America's first space shuttle from the space coast.
Columbia was an incredible spacecraft and paved the way for future long duration space flights by NASA.
In the days following the loss of Columbia, my daughter Emily and I paid tribute to her crew at the Space Mirror, including to those lost during Challenger (1986) and the Apollo 1 launch pad fire (1967).
It was a somber time across America's Space Coast, and for myself, like many, we relived the pains felt following Challenger's loss.
Now ten years later, many remain inspired by these crews to march forward and aim high in aviation and science.
(Charles Atkeison covers science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)