Special Report: Columbia Shuttle Disaster 10 Years Later

Documentary Provides Intimate Look at Columbia's Last Crew
This image of the STS-107 crew in orbit was recovered from wreckage inside an undeveloped film canister. The shirt color's indicate their mission shifts. From left (bottom row): Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick Husband, commander; Laurel Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From left (top row) are astronauts David Brown, mission specialist; William McCool, pilot; and Michael Anderson, payload commander. Ramon represents the Israeli Space Agency. (Image credit: NASA/JSC.)

Ten years ago, on Feb. 1, 2003, one of the worst space accidents of all time took the lives of seven astronauts when the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed. The shuttle disaster marked NASA's third fatal spaceflight tragedy and the second shuttle accident in the space plan program's history.

Killed in the shuttle disaster were Columbia shuttle commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool and mission specialists Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon. The STS-107 mission astronauts were on their way back to Earth after a 16-day science mission in orbit when Columbia broke apart on re-entry. Heat shield damage on the shuttle's left wing, sustained during the mission's launch on Jan. 16, 2003, was ultimately found to be the cause.

The Columbia shuttle disaster directly led to NASA's retirement of the space shuttle fleet and transition to a new space exploration plan that includes the use of private spacecraft and a focus on deep-space exploration. See SPACE.com's look at the Columbia shuttle disaster 10 years later here:


Astronaut Jerry Ross Recalls Columbia Shuttle Disaster (Exclusive Video)
The day the shuttle Columbia was lost, along with the seven astronauts inside it, Jerry Ross was standing at the end of the runway, waiting for the spacecraft to touch down.

NASA Memorial to the Fallen

Remembering Columbia: NASA Shuttle Tragedy 10 Years Later: Photos

Photos: The Columbia Space Shuttle Tragedy

Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster Explained (Infographic)
See how the Columbia shuttle accident of Feb 1, 2003, occurred in this SPACE.com infographic.

Columbia's Crew - 'In Their Own Words' (Video)
The last crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia talk about their dreams of being astronauts and the spectacle of flying above the Earth in this retrospective.

Top 10 Questions About NASA's Columbia Shuttle Tragedy
On Feb. 1, 2003, NASA's space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts were lost during re-entry. See photos from the mission, accident aftermath and investigation.

Shuttle Columbia's Final Mission: Photos from STS-107  
See photos from STS-107, the tragic final flight of the space shuttle Columbia in early 2003.

Friday, Feb 1

Space shuttle Columbia launches on mission STS-107, January 16, 2003. (Image credit: NASA)

The Untold Story: Columbia Shuttle Disaster and Mysterious 'Day 2 Object'
A day after the shuttle Columbia's final launch, a mysterious object drifted away from the orbiter in space. New details about the event contribute to a fuller understanding of the cause of the disastrous shuttle accident.

NASA Honors Fallen Astronauts in Solemn Ceremony
NASA honored the memories of the seven astronauts lost 10 years ago today (Feb. 1) in the space shuttle Columbia disaster, as well as the agency's other explorers who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.

Obama Honors Astronauts Who Gave Their Lives for Space
President Barack Obama paid tribute to the seven astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia accident 10 years ago, along with all of those who lost their lives in the pursuit of space, in a statement released today (Feb. 1).

Columbia Shuttle Disaster's Tough Lesson: Spaceflight Still Dangerous
The tragic destruction of the space shuttle Columbia 10 years ago today (Feb. 1) taught NASA and the nation a tough lesson: Despite the strides that have been made over the years, human spaceflight remains a dangerous proposition.

Space Shuttle Columbia Tragedy: Share Your Thoughts

SPACE.com readers share their thoughts on NASA's tragic Columbia space shuttle disaster and its impact on U.S. space exploration.

Poll: Is Human Spaceflight Worth the Risk?

Thursday, Jan. 31

Space Travel Still Risky 10 Years After Columbia Shuttle Disaster
It's been 10 years since the Columbia space shuttle accident, and spaceflight safety has come a long way — but has it come far enough? Experts say traveling to space is still a risky business, and while future accidents may not be inevitable, they aren't quite preventable, either.

Wednesday, Jan. 30

Columbia Shuttle Astronaut's Holocaust Tribute Honored in New Film
The space shuttle Columbia is largely remembered for the catastrophic accident that destroyed the orbiter and took the lives of seven astronauts on Feb. 1, 2003. But that ill-fated mission was also an instrument of hope when Israel's first astronaut flew a small Torah scroll from the Holocaust to space with him.

How Worms Survived NASA's Columbia Shuttle Disaster
When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA scientists expected that the 80 science experiments aboard the shuttle were destroyed as well.

Tuesday, Jan. 29

How the Columbia Shuttle Disaster Changed Spacecraft Safety Forever
Ten years after the devastating Columbia space shuttle accident that took the lives of seven astronauts, NASA is building a new spacecraft that will take humans farther into space than ever before, and will incorporate the safety lessons learned from the disaster that befell the agency Feb. 1, 2003.

NASA Honors Fallen Astronauts in Solemn Ceremony  
This week, NASA is paying tribute to fallen astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration by holding a remembrance ceremony today (Jan. 26) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Fallen Heroes of Space Exploration: A Memorial (Gallery)

Wednesday, Jan. 16

Space Shuttle Columbia Launched on Tragic Mission 10 Years Ago
NASA's space shuttle Columbia blasted off 10 years ago today (Jan. 16) on a mission that turned out to be the last for the orbiter and its seven-astronaut crew.

More Columbia mission reading:

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Space.com Staff
News and editorial team

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.