These are the seven astronauts who flew into space on NASA’s “STS-107” mission in 2003. Astronaut Rick Husband (bottom left) served as the captain, and astronaut Ilan Ramon (top right) was Israel’s first astronaut. In the center of the image is the STS-107 mission fragment with their names.
At 10:39 am ET on January 16, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia, carrying a crew of seven, took off from Kennedy Space Center 39A and reached Earth’s orbit eight and a half minutes later. In STS-107, a “Spacehab” module is installed in the cargo compartment for research purposes, and the crew will work on various research in a microgravity environment for 16 days.
The seven students were divided into two teams, red and blue, and took part in research activities in shifts. In addition, on January 28, the second half of the mission, the space shuttle Challenger was killed in an accident during the launch (January 28, 1986) and during the ground test of “Apollo 1” (January 27, 1967). it is said to remember and pay tribute to the astronauts who dropped the
The crew of STS-107 did not return safely. On the morning of February 1, 2003 EST, Columbia will leave Earth’s orbit and reenter Earth’s atmosphere to return to the Kennedy Space Center. However, at 8:59 on the same day, 16 minutes before landing, communication with the mission control center was lost. Columbia disintegrated in mid-air, spewing debris over a wide area, including Texas and Louisiana.
A post-accident investigation concluded that the cause was pieces of insulation (polyurethane foam) that fell off the surface of the space shuttle’s external fuel tank. Experiments led by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) up to May 2003 showed that a heat resistant panel (reinforced carbon carbon material = RCC) which actually protects the leading edge of the space shuttle’s main wing from heat caused by effect of heat insulating material. There is a hole in it.
The three main engines (SSME) used during the Space Shuttle launch were supplied with propellants (liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) from disposable external fuel tanks attached to the bottom of the fuselage. The surface of the external fuel tank was covered with insulation to keep the driver cool, but part of it fell during the launch and hit the heat resistant panel protecting the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing. Columbia, whose left wing was damaged by a collision with insulation, is believed to have broken up in mid-air because the damaged area was exposed to high heat during re-entry, which gradually destroyed the left wing.
During the STS-107 mission, the possibility that some of the insulating material had fallen off and collided with Columbia’s left wing was already known during the STS-107 mission, and the crew was also informed. However, NASA senior management did not take the possibility of damage seriously because the insulation had deteriorated in past missions, and his application was also rejected. Space Shuttle flights were delayed until July 2005 after the Columbia crash. After the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) was completed, it was decided to retire, and the STS-135 Atlantis mission in July 2011 was its last flight.
On January 26, 2023, NASA celebrated its Day of Remembrance 2023. A day of remembrance, held towards the end of January each year, honors all those who lost their lives in the development of space, including astronauts who died in flight or on spacecraft during tests. It is a day to confirm the desire to continue to challenge.
As mentioned above, the period between late January and February is the most tragic accident in NASA history. On January 27, 1967, Apollo 1, the first manned spacecraft at the time, caught fire during a ground test, killing three people, including Captain Virgil “Gus” Grissom. On January 28, 1986, due to a problem with one of the solid fuel rocket boosters during launch, the Challenger disintegrated in mid-air 73 seconds after takeoff, killing seven crew members, including Captain Francis R .”Dick” Scobie. I’m here. Including the Columbia disaster, NASA lost 17 astronauts during this period.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the loss of the crew of Columbia during re-entry of STS-107. For some it seems like a lifetime, for others it seems like a moment. Time is still alive, shaping our culture, informing decision-making, and helping us move forward,” said Janet Petro, Kennedy Space Center Director.
Accidents where astronauts die are not limited to the United States, and in the former Soviet Union, a total of four astronauts, “Soyuz 1” and “Soyuz 11”, died when they returned. In recent years, in October 2014, the spacecraft of the private company Virgin Galactic “VSS Enterprise” crashed during a test flight, and two crew members were killed and injured.
In October 2018, the Russian spacecraft “Soyuz MS-10” failed to launch, and two American and Russian astronauts had to leave. In December 2022, there were also troubles that did not lead to the loss of human life, such as a coolant leak from the “Soyuz MS-22” spacecraft anchored in the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA is currently promoting Artemis, the first manned lunar exploration project since the Apollo program in half a century. In 2022, the first mission “Artemis 1”, an unmanned test flight of the new spacecraft “Orion” and the new rocket “SLS (Space Launch System)”, will take place from November to December. NASA plans to carry out the “Artemis 2” mission, the first manned Orion flight, in 2024, and the “Artemis 3” mission, the first Artemis plan to land on the moon, in 2025.
Astronauts are permanently stationed in low earth orbit, and space missions by private companies have begun, supported by the efforts and dedication of many people. In the future, there should be more opportunities for civilians to face space flight, and in order to keep the risk of accidents and troubles as low as possible, we cannot forget the incidents that the deceased astronauts encountered.
“Why does NASA have a day of mourning? It is to remember our fallen comrades, but more importantly, to remember the hard lessons learned from Apollo, Challenger, and Columbia. On the last mission, the Space Shuttle “It “probably half the workforce wasn’t at NASA when it was launched, so it’s important to learn the lessons so we don’t do it again,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Bob Kavanagh.
- Image Credit: NASA
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- NASA – Remembrance Day Marks 20th Anniversary of the Loss of the Crew of Columbia
- NASA – 20 years ago: Remembering Columbia and its Crew
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