In this article, we would like to honor the brave astronauts that lost their lives aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle in February of 2003.
On January 16th, 2003 a space shuttle with seven excited astronauts launched into space from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This was the first flight for the majority of these astronauts and was a moment many of them had dreamt of their entire lives.
This mission was named STS-107 and was created with the goal of performing various science experiments. The team successfully completed over 80 experiments during this mission’s 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.
Eighty seconds after launching, a 1lb piece of insulation foam tore off the external fuel tank and hit the left-wing of the shuttle.
This didn’t hinder the space shuttle activity during lift-off or their time in space, however, when returning to the earth’s atmosphere, the damage caused the Columbia Space Shuttle to fall apart, killing all seven astronauts on board.
Read on to learn more about the heroic team of STS-107.
The STS-107 Team
Rick was from Amarillo, Texas and remembers being amazed by space exploration missions as a child.
He once said “[…]watching the moon landings and everything, it was just so incredibly adventurous and exciting to me that I just thought, there is no doubt in my mind that that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1994 by NASA and traveled to space for the first time in 1999 during mission STS-96.
Rick was the commander of mission STS-107 in 2003 and has many memorials to honor his service.
Born in San Diego, California, William McCool was very passionate about the work he and his team would do aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle.
William began flying planes in the Navy and became an astronaut candidate at NASA in 1996.
His first mission in space was aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle in 2003 where he se
rved as the pilot.
During his time in space he said “From our orbital vantage point, we observe an earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence, and we pray that humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world as we see it and strive to live as one in peace.”
Michael Anderson, from Spokane, Washington, was always interested by science and aviation.
When talking about his childhood he said “[…]You know, here you have these me
n that are scientists, engineers, and they’re also flying these wonderful airplanes and these great spaceships, and they’re going places. And to me, that just seemed like the perfect mix and the perfect job. So, very early on, I just thought being an astronaut would be a fantastic thing to do.”
Michael become an astronaut candidate in 1994 and first went to space in 1998 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. He then served as a payload commander on the Columbia Space Shuttle during the STS-107 in 2003.
He was a religious man and told his minister before going to space in 2003 “If this thing doesn’t come out right, don’t worry about me, I’m just going on higher.”
Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, India and became the first Indian-born woman to venture into outer space.
She once said “I don’t know why I always liked aerospace engineering. I was in the 10th grade when I figured that’s what I wanted to do.”
She became an astronaut candidate in 1994 and first went to space in 1997. Her second and final mission was STS-107 where she served as a mission specialist.
David Brown grew up in Arlington, Virginia and never imaged he could be an astronaut.
David even said “But I absolutely couldn’t identify with the people who were astronauts. I thought they were movie stars. And I just thought I was kind of a normal kid. And so, I couldn’t see a path how a normal kid could ever get to be one of these people that I just couldn’t identify with. And so, while I would’ve said, ‘Hey, this is like the coolest thing you could possibly do,’ it really wasn’t something that I ever thought that I would end up doing.”
He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and his first flight into space was for mission STS-107 where he served as a mission specialist.
Laurel was from Racine, Wisconsin and was more interested in science on earth than science in space. She majored in zoology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and didn’t consider becoming an astronaut until her time in the Navy.
When talking about her career she said: “And it was really just sort of a natural progression when I learned about NASA and what astronauts do, and the type of things that they are expected to do, that I thought about the things I had done so far and became more interested in that as a career.”
Laurel was chosen by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and first went to space during the STS-107 in 2003 as a mission specialist.
Ramon was from Tel Aviv, Israel and became the first Israeli to go to space.
He once said “[…]My mother is a Holocaust survivor. She was in Auschwitz. My father fought for the independence of Israel not so long ago. I was born in Israel and I’m kind of the proof for them, and for the whole Israeli people, that whatever we fought for and we’ve been going through in the last century – or maybe in the last two thousand years – is becoming true.”
Ramon became an astronaut candidate in 1997 and first went to space aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle during the STS-107 mission as a payload specialist.
A Team Remembered Throughout the Galaxy
This team is remembered for their bravery and service to NASA, the United States and mankind.
You can find memorials to this brave crew across the earth and even on our neighboring planet. The Columbia Hills, that are located on Mars, contain seven hills, each named after a crew member aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle during mission STS-107.
George Bush, president at the time of this tragedy said “The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home. May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.”