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First Israeli astronaut. Conducted experiments in Double Spacehab module. Crew perished when shuttle broke up during re-entry. Cause was damage to a leading-edge RCC from foam breaking off of external tank bipod strut.

AKA: Columbia;Spacehab Double Module. Launched: 2003-01-16. Returned: 2003-02-01. Number crew: 7 . Duration: 15.94 days.

The last solo shuttle earth orbit mission ended in tragedy when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. Launch delayed from May 23, June 27, July 11 and 19, November 29, 2002.

Columbia was the oldest shuttle in the fleet. As the heaviest, it was never modified for International Space Station on assembly missions. Instead it was extensively refurbished during a 17-month stay in Boeing's factory in California and primarily destined for solo shuttle earth orbit missions to low inclination orbits (Spacelab and Spacehab; Hubble Space Telescope repair and upgrade). The first flight after the refurbishment was the Hubble repair mission STS-109 in March 2002.

STS-107 was a mission specifically mandated by the US Congress. NASA had expected to fly the experiments aboard on the International Space Station, but certain members of Congress pushed to test microgravity experiments with commercial potential. These could not have been done on the Station for some time due to ISS construction work and crew limitations. STS-107 was originally to have been launched in 2001. However it had lower priority than the Hubble mission and was finally scheduled for July 2002 as the second Columbia flight after its refurbishment. A further delay of seven months resulted from the reshuffling of missions after the shuttle fleet was grounded for a time in 2002 due to cracks in main engine fuel-liners. Following resolution of that problem, ISS assembly and resupply missions (STS-110, -111, -112, -113) had priority.

Finally the turn of the STS-107 crew came. What appeared to be a nearly flawless mission was launched on-schedule in perfect weather at both the launch site and the contingency abort landing sites. A concern during lift-off was the observation that a chunk of insulation had broken off the external tank during ascent and may have struck the bottom of the left wing of the shuttle. A NASA assessment concluded that no significant damage was done. No request was made of the US intelligence services for the underbelly of the shuttle to be examined by reconnaissance satellite or ground-based cameras. In any case, there were no means on board for examination or repair of any damage to the tiles of the heat shield.

The mission continued without major problem with the series of experiments in the Double Spacehab module being conducted 24 hours a day by two shifts (Red Team and Blue Team). Closeout and preparation for landing went smoothly as well. Again weather was flawless over the south-eastern United States and there was no delay in landing (as on many other shuttle missions).

The re-entry OMS burn was nominal. However nearly as soon as Columbia began braking in the earth's atmosphere and heating of its belly began, problems began cropping up. A cascading series of drop-outs of sensors in the left elevon, wing, and then left wheel-well and tires were detected over a period of five minutes. At 14:53 GMT ground controllers noted the loss of data from four temperature sensors on the inboard and outboard hydraulic systems on the left side of the spacecraft. Such drop-outs had been noted on earlier missions, usually due to minor failures of avionics handling the sensor inputs. The shuttle was functioning normally otherwise and the crew was not notified. Three minutes later other sensors detected a rise in temperature and pressure in the tires on the shuttle's left-side landing gear. This was certainly a cause for concern, as it would indicate a loss of heat shield integrity and heating of the shuttle's internal aluminum structure. It also would have set off an alarm in Columbia's cockpit.

At 14:58 GMT data was lost from three temperature sensors embedded in the shuttle's left wing. At 14:59 Columbia was at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18.3. Houston mission control radioed "Columbia, Houston. We see your tire pressure messages and we did not copy your last." Flight Commander Husband replied, "Roger, uh ..." and transmission ceased. Amateurs watching and filming the re-entry over Texas and Louisiana at that moment saw one major chunk being shed from the shuttle. Seconds later the main body disintegrated into five or more pieces. Thousands of pieces of the Columbia survived re-entry and impacted a wide area of east Texas and Louisiana.

NASA followed procedures established for such a contingency. All data were secured, all production and processing of shuttle flight components was stopped, the shuttle fleet was grounded, and an independent investigation commission was named. Congress, true to form, announced its own investigation. Congress, of course, did not investigate itself -- which lobbyists, aides, and Congressman pressured NASA to conduct the solo mission. NASA believed the experiments aboard STS-107 would have been best performed aboard the ISS.

The ISS provided a 'space infrastructure' which would have allowed several ways to handle a situation if damage to the tiles was suspected. Columbia could have been flown in an orbit that allowed it to rendezvous with the ISS in an emergency (albeit with reduced payload). The ISS crew could have inspected the shuttle for damage. If damage had been seen, the shuttle could have rendezvoused (although not docked) with the station and the crew could have transferred to the station to wait for a repair or rescue mission.

The grounding of the shuttle fleet left the three-person crew aboard the ISS without the planned ride home. However they had a Soyuz lifeboat docked to the station and sufficient consumables to wait until June for a relief mission. This arrived in May aboard Soyuz TMA-2, which brought up the first of a series of two-man skeleton crews that would keep the ISS operating over the next two years until shuttle flights and station assembly resumed in July 2005.

The ISS was not cancelled, but the disaster should give fresh impetus to NASA's project to develop a much smaller manned Orbital Space Plane as a lifeboat and eventual shuttle replacement. This finally began full-scale development at the end of 2006 as the Orion space capsule, which was to provide American human access to space after the completion of station assembly and the retirement of the shuttle in 2010.

NASA Official Mission Summary

Mission: Migrogravity Research Mission/SPACEHAB
Space Shuttle: Columbia
Launch Pad: 39A
Launched: January 16, 2003, 10:39 a.m. EST

Crew Members: Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon.


Jan. 16, 2003, at 10:39 a.m. EST, Columbia lifted off on time on the first shuttle mission of the year. It carried seven crew members, including the first Israeli astronaut, on a marathon international scientific research flight.


KSC landing was planned for Feb. 1 after a 16-day mission, but Columbia and crew were lost during reentry over East Texas at about 9 a.m. EST, 16 minutes prior to the scheduled touchdown at KSC. A seven-month investigation followed, including a four month search across Texas to recover debris. The search was headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La. Nearly 85,000 pieces of orbiter debris were shipped to KSC and housed in the Columbia Debris Hangar near the Shuttle Landing Facility. The KSC debris reconstruction team identified pieces as to location on the orbiter, and determined damaged areas. About 38 percent of the orbiter Columbia was eventually recovered.

Mission Highlights

As a research mission, the crew was kept busy 24 hours a day performing various chores involved with science experiments.

Experiments in the SPACEHAB RDM included nine commercial payloads involving 21separate investigations, four payloads for the European Space Agency with 14 investigations, one payload/investigation for ISS Risk Mitigation and 18 payloads supporting 23 investigations for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR).

In the physical sciences, three studies inside a large, rugged chamber examined the physics of combustion, soot production and fire quenching processes in microgravity. These experiments provided new insights into combustion and fire suppression that cannot be gained on Earth.

An experiment that compressed granular materials in the absence of gravity furthered our understanding of construction techniques. This information can help engineers provide stronger foundations for structures in areas where earthquakes, floods and landslides are common.

Another experiment evaluated the formation of zeolite crystals, which can speed the chemical reactions that are the basis for chemical processes used in refining, biomedical and other areas. Yet another experiment used pressurized liquid xenon to mimic the behaviors of more complex fluids such as blood flowing through capillaries.

In the area of biological applications, two separate OBPR experiments allowed different types of cell cultures to grow together in weightlessness to elevate their development of enhanced genetic characteristics -- one use was to combat prostate cancer, the other to improve crop yield. Another experiment evaluated the commercial usefulness of plant products grown in space.

A facility for forming protein crystals more purely and with fewer flaws than is possible on Earth may lead to a drug designed for specific diseases with fewer side effects.

A commercially sponsored facility housed two experiments to grow protein crystals to study possible therapies against the factors that cause cancers to spread and bone cancer to inflict intense pain on its sufferers.

A third experiment looked at developing a new technique of encapsulating anti-cancer drugs to improve their efficiency.

Other studies focused on changes, due to space flight, in the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems; in the systems which sense and respond to gravity; and in the capability of organisms to respond to stress and maintain normal function.

NASA also tested a new technology to recycle water prior to installing a device to recycle water permanently aboard the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency (ESA), through a contract with SPACEHAB, flew an important payload focused on astronaut health, biological function and basic physical phenomena in space. These experiments addressed different aspects of many of the same phenomena that NASA is interested in, providing a more thorough description of the effects of space flight, often in the same subjects or specimens.

ESA performed seven in-flight experiments, and one ground-based, on the cardiopulmonary changes that occur in astronauts.

Additional ESA biological investigations examined bone formation and maintenance; immune system functioning; connective tissue growth and repair; and bacterial and yeast cell responses to the stresses of space flight.

A special facility grew large, well-ordered protein and virus crystals that were expected to lead to improved drug designs. Another studied the physical characteristics of bubbles and droplets in the absence of the effects of Earth's gravity.

SPACEHAB was also making it possible for universities, companies and other government agencies to do important research in space without having to provide their own spacecraft.

The Canadian Space Agency sponsored three bone-growth experiments, and was collaborating with ESA on two others.

The German Space Agency measured the development of the gravity-sensing organs of fish in the absence of gravity.

A university was growing ultra-pure protein crystals for drug research. And another university was testing a navigation system for future satellites.

The U.S. Air Force was conducting a communications experiment. Students from six schools in Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein and the United States were probing the effects of space flight on spiders, silkworms, inorganic crystals, fish, bees and ants, respectively.

There were also experiments in Columbia's payload bay, including three attached to the top of the RDM: the Combined Two-Phase Loop Experiment (COM2PLEX), Miniature Satellite Threat Reporting System (MSTRS) and Star Navigation (STARNAV).

There were six payloads/experiments on the Hitchhiker pallet -- the Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science, Technology, Applications and Research (FREESTAR), which was mounted on a bridge-like structure spanning the width of the payload bay. These six investigations looked outward to the Sun, downward at Earth's atmosphere and inward into the physics of fluid phenomena, as well as tested technology for space communications.

FREESTAR held the Critical Viscosity of Xenon- 2 (CVX-2), Low Power Transceiver (LPT), Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX), Space Experiment Module (SEM- 14), Solar Constant Experiment-3 (SOLCON-3) and Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE-2). The SEM was made up of 11 separate student experiments from schools across the U.S. and was the 14th flight of a SEM on the space shuttle.

Additional secondary payloads were the Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local Exhaust Experiment (SIMPLEX) and Ram Burn Observation (RAMBO). During the debris recovery activities, some of the Columbia experiments were found. Scientists have indicated valuable science will still be produced. Much of the scientific data was transmitted to experimenters on the ground during the flight.

Payload Details

Commercial Payload:

  • Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System
  • Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System
  • U.S. Air Force Technology Demonstration Experiment
  • Commercial and Macromolecular Protein Crystal Growth
  • Combined Two-Phase-Loop Experiment
  • Quick External Science Tray
  • Space Technology and Research Students (STARS) Program
  • Star Navigation
  • Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit
  • European Research In Space and Terrestrial Osteoporosis

Human Life Science Experiments:

  • Physiology and Biochemistry Experiments Team (PhaAB-4)
  • Enhanced Orbiter Refrigeration Freezer (EOR/F)
  • Thermoelectric Holding Module (TEHM)
  • Orbiter Centrifuge

NASA/ESA Barter Payload:

  • Biopack Experiment
  • Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension
  • Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility
  • Biobox Experiment


  • Vapor Compression Distillation Flight Experiment

NASA Code U Payload:

  • Combustion Module-2
  • Space Acceleration Measurement System - Free Flyer
  • Mechanics of Granular Materials
  • Bioreactor Development System-05
  • Ergometer Hardware

Human Life Science Experiments:

  • Microbial Physiology Flight Experiments (MPFE)
  • Automated Microbial System (AMS)
  • SLEEP-3
  • Astroculture (Plant Growth Chamber)
  • Astroculture (Glovebox)
  • Commercial Protein Crystal Growth-PCF
  • Zeolite Crystal Growth-1
  • Fundamental Rodent Experiments Supporting Health-Two
  • Gravisensing and Response System
  • Biological Research in Canisters
  • Commercial ITA Biomedical Experiments

More at: STS-107.

Family: Manned spaceflight. People: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Country: USA. Spacecraft: Columbia. Projects: STS. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral. Agency: NASA.
Photo Gallery

STS-107 Re-entrySTS-107 Re-entry
STS-107 disintegrates during re-entry.
Credit: Amateur video

STS-107 PatchSTS-107 Patch
STS-107 Mission Patch
Credit: NASA

Credit: www.spacefacts.de

2003 January 16 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: EMA EMA - . Flight: STS-107. "EMA EMA" Dedicated to Dave Brown. Red Team -"America, the Beautiful" by the Texas Elementary Honors Choir, with Rick Husband's daughter, Laura..

2003 January 16 - .
2003 January 16 - .
2003 January 16 - . 15:39 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle.
  • STS-107 - . Call Sign: Columbia. Crew: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Payload: Columbia F28 / Spacehab. Mass: 115,900 kg (255,500 lb). Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Agency: NASA. Manufacturer: Boeing. Program: STS. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spaceplane. Flight: STS-107. Spacecraft Bus: Shuttle. Spacecraft: Columbia. Duration: 15.94 days. Decay Date: 2003-02-01 . USAF Sat Cat: 27647 . COSPAR: 2003-003A. Apogee: 276 km (171 mi). Perigee: 263 km (163 mi). Inclination: 39.0000 deg. Period: 89.90 min. The last solo shuttle earth orbit mission ended in tragedy when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. Launch delayed from May 23, June 27, July 11 and 19, November 29, 2002..

2003 January 17 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Coming Back to Life - . Flight: STS-107. "Coming Back to Life" by Pink Floyd. Dedicated to Willie McCool. Red Team -"Space Truckin'" by Deep Purple. Dedicated to Kalpana Chawla..

2003 January 17 - .
2003 January 18 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Cultural Exchange - . Flight: STS-107. "Cultural Exchange" Dedicated to Dave Brown. Red Team -"Hatishma Koli" by Hachalonot Hgvohim. Dedicated to Ilan Ramon..

2003 January 18 - .
2003 January 19 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Fake Plastic Trees - . Flight: STS-107.

    "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead. Dedicated to Willie McCool. Red Team -"Amazing Grace" by Black Watch and 51 Band of Highland Brigade. Dedicated to Laurel Clark - The same song on bagpipes was played at her wedding, for the wakeup in space, and at her funeral.

2003 January 19 - .
2003 January 20 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Texan 60 - . Flight: STS-107. "Texan 60" Dedicated to Dave Brown. Red Team -"God of Wonders" by Steve Green. Dedicated to Rick Husband..

2003 January 20 - .
2003 January 21 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: The Wedding Song - . Flight: STS-107. "The Wedding Song" by Paul Stookey for Pilot Willie McCool Red Team -"Prabhati" by Ravi Shankar. Dedicated to Kalpana Chawla..

2003 January 21 - .
2003 January 22 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Hakuna Matata - . Flight: STS-107. "Hakuna Matata" by The Baha Men for Anderson from his two kids. From the movie"Lion King" Red Team -"Ma ata osheh kesheata kam baboker?" by Arik Einstein. Dedicated to Ilan Ramon..

2003 January 22 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #08 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: STS-107, STS-113 ISS EO-6.

    The seven astronauts aboard Columbia beamed down television views of their smallest companions in orbit today, including insects, spiders, fish, bees and silk worms that are part of the Space Technology and Research Students package of experiments designed and developed by students in six countries. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 23 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Burning Down the House - . Flight: STS-107.

    "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads in honor of combustion experiments on this flight Red Team -"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas. The crew had a stuffed hamster toy which played that song. It was their 'mascot' and they took it everywhere during their training.

2003 January 23 - .
2003 January 24 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Hotel California - . Flight: STS-107.

    "Hotel California" performed by Pilot William McCool's family (Josie McCool, Shawn McCool) The family members were Sean McCool on the guitar, his former girlfriend (but still friend) Josee Julian, and Josee's father Frank also on guitar. (Reference - an email to me from Lani McCool) Red Team -"The Prayer" by Celine Dion. Dedicated to Rick Husband.

2003 January 24 - .
2003 January 25 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: I Say a Little Prayer - . Flight: STS-107. "I Say a Little Prayer" by Dionne Warwick played for Anderson from his wife Red Team -"Drops of Jupiter" by Train. Dedicated to Kalpana Chawla..

2003 January 25 - .
2003 January 26 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: When Day is Done - . Flight: STS-107.

    "When Day is Done" by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Dedicated to Dave Brown. Capcom Charlie Hobaugh said,"We're doing great down here, and I feel cultured" Dave replied,"It's about time" Red Team -"Love of My Life" by Queen. Dedicated to Ilan Ramon. A videotape of the wakeup activities survived the accident.

2003 January 26 - .
2003 January 27 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Slow Boat to Rio - . Flight: STS-107. "Slow Boat to Rio" by Earl Klugh. Dedicated to Mike Anderson. Red Team -"Running to the Light" by Runrig. Dedicated to Laurel Clark..

2003 January 27 - .
2003 January 28 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: I Get Around - . Flight: STS-107. "I Get Around" by The Beach Boys. Dedicated to Dave Brown. Red Team -"Up on the Roof" by James Taylor. Dedicated to Rick Husband..

2003 January 28 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #14 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: STS-107, STS-113 ISS EO-6.

    The Red team of astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia accomplished repairs on the third and final combustion experiment of STS-107 this afternoon, and support scientists on the ground were looking forward to working with the Blue team on the first scientific runs. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 29 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Imagine - . Flight: STS-107.

    "Imagine" by John Lennon. McCool and Ramon said their observations from orbit reveal no borders on the Earth below and reiterated in both English and Hebrew their hopes for peace in the world. Dedicated to Willie McCool. Red Team -"Yaar ko hamne ja ba ja dekha" by Abita Parveen. Dedicated to Kalpana Chawla. A videotape of the crew activities during this wakeup call survived the accident.

2003 January 29 - .
2003 January 30 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Silver Inches - . Flight: STS-107.

    "Silver Inches" by Enya. Dedicated to Dave Brown. Red Team -"Shalom lach eretz nehederet" by Yehoram Gaon. Dedicated to Ilan Ramon - The tune is the same as Arlo Guthrie's"City of New Orleans" Ilan said,"Good morning, Stephanie, it was wonderful to hear your voice in Hebrew. It was perfect timing while we flew over Israel to hear this song, which says I've been to the North Pole and to everywhere but there's no place better than Israel"

2003 January 30 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #16 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Chawla, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: STS-107, STS-113 ISS EO-6. Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia are completing their final runs on experiments in the Spacehab Research Double Module and beginning preparations for Saturday's landing.. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 31 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: If You've Been Delivered - . Flight: STS-107. "If You've Been Delivered" by Kirk Franklin. Dedicated to Mike Anderson. Red Team -"Scotland the Brave" by The Black Watch and the band of the 51st Highland Brigade. Dedicated to Laurel Clark ..

2003 January 31 - .
2003 February 1 - .
  • Loss of STS-107 - . Return Crew: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson, Brown, David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. Program: STS. Flight: STS-107.

    The shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. All hands aboard were lost. The loss grounded the shuttle fleet pending a failure investigation and left the crew of Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin aboard the International Space Station with a Soyuz emergency return vehicle but without means of major station resupply.

2003 February 1 - .
2003 February 2 - .
  • International Space Station Status Report #03-4 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Bowersox, Budarin, Pettit. Program: ISS. Flight: STS-107, STS-113 ISS EO-6. A Russian Progress 10 resupply craft lifted off today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying supplies and new scientific systems hardware to the International Space Station.. Additional Details: here....

2003 February 2 - .
2005 August 4 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Anchors Aweigh - . Flight: STS-107. "Anchors Aweigh" dedicated to Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence at the request of Commander Eileen Collins. Space Station Expedition 11 crewmates John Phillips and Sergei Krikalev woke 30 minutes later..

2005 August 5 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: The Air Force Song - . Flight: STS-107. "The Air Force Song" dedicated to Pilot Jim Kelly, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, at the request of Commander Eileen Collins. Space Station Expedition 11 crewmates John Phillips and Sergei Krikalev woke 30 minutes later..

2005 August 6 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: The One and Only Flower in the World - . Flight: STS-107. "The One and Only Flower in the World" sung by the Japanese group SMAP. It was played for Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)..

2005 August 7 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Come On Eileen - . Flight: STS-107. "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners. It was played for Discovery's Commander Eileen Collins from the Mission Control Team..

2005 August 8 - .
  • STS-107 - Wakeup Song: Good Day Sunshine - . Flight: STS-107. "Good Day Sunshine" by The Beatles..

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