Appears To Have Broken Up Over Texas
NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia broke up in flight
this morning as it re-entered Earth's athmosphere over Texas. All
seven crew members, including Israel's first-ever man in space, are
Columbia was approximately 13 minutes from touchdown,
flying 200,000 feet above the Texas plain, when it apparently broke
up. Videotapes show a single contrail becoming many just after the
traditional sonic boom was heard in Dallas-Fort Worth. The shuttle
disappeared from NASA radar and ground controllers lost contact
with the astronauts immediately.
It appears to be the first time in 42 years of manned space
flight that a spacecraft was lost on re-entry.
Debris is reportedly being found in towns like Claire, (OK), and
Groving, (TX), approximately 45 miles south of Dallas. Residents of
Groving reported hearing a loud noise as the shuttle apparently
broke up overhead. Debris has also been reportedly found along
I-45, southeast of Dallas.
There is no indication at this point as to what causes STS-107
to break apart.
The shuttle was landing after a grueling 16-day mission, a
platform for science experiments including the study of dust
interactions in the atmosphere. The crew split into two 12-hour
shifts, working around the clock.
board were astronauts Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie
McCool, Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael
Anderson and Laurel Clark, and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan
Col. Ramon, Israel's first man in space, was one of the daring
pilots who staged a miracle-raid on an Iraqi nuclear weapons
research facility in 1981.
Families of the Columbia astronauts were in Florida's Mission
Control Center when the spacecraft dropped from radar and stopped
communicating. They were immediately hustled to an area away from
video screens and visitors.