(ORDO NEWS) — At 10:39 am on January 16, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia was launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39-A with a crew of seven.
The crew consisted of Mission Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon.
All seven died 16 days later when the Columbia broke up during re-entry. The cause was a piece of insulating foam that came loose from the external fuel tank and hit the left wing of the orbiter during the shuttle launch.
The impact led to a violation of the heat-shielding layer of the ship and a further crash.
It was the 28th Columbia mission and the 113th mission of the Shuttle program. Columbia is the first of five space shuttles. Her first flight took place on April 12, 1981.
In 22 years, Columbia has traveled more than 200 million kilometers, circled the Earth 4,808 times and spent more than 300 days in space.
She has carried 160 astronauts during her career, including J. Bill Nelson, head of NASA.
This tragedy is one of the three largest in the history of NASA. During the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, 7 people also died, and in 1967, three astronauts of Apollo 1 were killed.
All fallen space explorers will be honored on NASA Memorial Day. The Kennedy Space Center complex will host the ceremony on January 26.
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