|Space Shuttle Columbia Crashes - Crew Killed|
NASA has confirmed that space shuttle Columbia - flight STS 107 - broke up during its landing approach to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All members of the crew of seven were killed and no cause of the disaster was immediately evident, according to NASA officials. [Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) History]
At a press conference early Saturday afternoon, NASA announced that President Bush had called the families of the Columbia crew to express his deepest regrets. Officials further stated that all relevant federal agencies and local authorities would be involved in a thorough investigation of the crash.
"The Columbia is lost. There are no survivors," said President Bush from the White House. "Our entire nation grieves."
"The cause in which they died will continue," said Bush. "Our journey into space will go on."
NASA Asks Public for Help in Investigation
NASA officials have asked members of the public finding or seeing debris suspected of coming from the downed space shuttle Columbia to report it by calling the Johnson Space Center Emergency Operations Center at (281)-483-3388. NASA warns that hazardous chemicals may be present and debris should not be moved or handled.
Witnesses saw shuttle break apart
Eyewitnesses on the ground in Dallas, Texas, videotaped Columbia breaking into multiple pieces as the shuttle passed overhead at an estimated altitude of over 200,000 feet and speed of about 12,500 mph. NASA controllers lost communications with Columbia at 9:00 a.m. EST.
The crew of Columbia includes:
- Rick D.
- William C. McCool, Pilot
- Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander
- Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist
- David M. Brown, Mission Specialist
- Laurel B. Clark, Mission Specialist
- Ilan Ramon, (ISA) Payload Specialist
- William C. McCool, Pilot
Shortly after the loss of communications, NASA warned the public that, "Any debris that is located in the Dallas Forth Worth vicinity should be avoided and may hazardous due to the toxic nature of propellants used on board the shuttle and should be reported to local law enforcement authorities."
Making its first flight in 1981, Columbia was the oldest of NASA's shuttle fleet. Today's crash is the most serious shuttle incident since the 1986 explosion of Challenger, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts.
Columbia's mission STS-107 was the 113th space shuttle mission.
Israeli astronaut stirred fears of terrorism
While the cause of the tragedy was not immediately evident, NASA reported that no evidence of terrorism had been found. Security for the mission had been increased due to the presence of Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to fly in space. Ramon, a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force, had participated in a 1981 bombing raid against an Iraqi nuclear reactor.
- NASA Promises Exhaustive Columbia Inquiry (Reuters)
- 'Valiant' crew lost in shuttle disaster (CNN)
- U.S. Mourns Lost Space Shuttle, Experts Seek Cause (Reuters)
- Iraqis Call Shuttle Disaster God's Vengeance (Reuters)
- Astronaut's sister: Loss 'hasn't set in yet' (CNN)
- Officials: No evidence of terrorism (CNN)
- Israelis, in Shock, Pray for Their First Astronaut (Reuters)
- Israel Says Bush Tells Sharon It's a 'Tragic Day' (Reuters)
- NASA Says Shuttle Debris Sighted in Texas (Reuters)
- US Officials Discount Terrorism in Missing Shuttle (Reuters)
- NASA Warns of Possible Shuttle Debris in Texas (Reuters)