NASA lost communications with space shuttle Columbia at 9:00 a.m. EST February 1st as the orbiter began disintegrating 38 miles above Texas. Columbia was carrying a crew of seven astronauts: Mission Commander Colonel Rick Husband, pilot Commander Willie McCool, mission specialists Dr. Kalpana Chawla, Commander Laurel Clark, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Anderson, Captain David Brown, and Israeli payload specialist Colonel Ilan Ramon.
A de-orbit burn took place as scheduled at 8:15 a.m. EST over India and all appeared to be going well with the re-entry until just before contact was lost over the north central part of Texas. No technical problems with the shuttle were indicated until a dozen or so sensors failed during the two-minutes before communications from Commander Husband ceased in mid-word.
President Bush expressed the hazards accompanying the jobs of those lost. "These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.
"All Americans today are thinking as well of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country."
Farewell, but not goodbye, for now they fly with angels....
Jack Keller, American