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STS-107 MCC Status Report #19



Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC

STS-107 MCC Status Report #19 
Saturday, February 1, 2003 - 7:00 p.m. CST 
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas 

The Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts were lost today when
the vehicle broke up over north central Texas during its reentry from
orbit. 

Communications were lost with Columbia and its crew at around 8:00 a.m.
CST, while the shuttle was traveling about 18 times the speed of sound at
an altitude of 207,000 feet. Columbia was 16 minutes from landing at the
Kennedy Space Center when flight controllers at Mission Control lost
contact with the vehicle. Columbia was returning from a 16-day scientific
research mission, its 28th flight, which launched on January 16. 

Aboard Columbia were Commander Rick Husband, completing his second
flight, Pilot William McCool, wrapping up his first mission, Mission
Specialists Dave Brown, also completing his first mission, Kalpana
Chawla, on her second flight, Laurel Clark, a first-time space traveler,
Payload Commander Mike Anderson, ending his second flight, and Payload
Specialist Ilan Ramon of the Israel Space Agency, on his first flight. 

Prior to the loss of communications with Columbia, the shuttle’s return
to Earth appeared perfectly normal. After assessing some wispy fog near
the shuttle’s three-mile long landing strip at KSC before dawn, Entry
Flight Director Leroy Cain gave approval for the firing of the shuttle’s
braking rockets to begin its descent from orbit. 

Husband and McCool began the deorbit burn to allow Columbia to slip out
of orbit at 7:15 a.m. CST. There was no indication of anything abnormal
with Columbia’s reentry until the last communications between Mission
Control and the crew. 

At Columbia’s intended landing site, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe and
Associate Administrator for Space Flight William Readdy met with the
families of the astronauts to offer their condolences, vowed to uncover
the cause of the accident and press ahead with the Shuttle program. 

“This is indeed a tragic day for the NASA family, for the families of the
astronauts who flew on STS-107, and likewise is tragic for the nation,”
said O’Keefe. 

“We have no indication that the mishap was caused by anything or anyone
on the ground,” O’Keefe added. 

In a briefing, Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin said that around 7:53
a.m. CST, just minutes before communications were lost with Columbia,
flight controllers detected indications of a loss of hydraulic system
temperature measurements associated with Columbia’s left wing, followed
three minutes later by an increase in temperatures on the left main gear
tires and brakes. At 7:58 a.m., flight controllers noted a loss of
bondline temperature sensor data in the area of the left wing followed a
minute later by a loss of data on tire temperatures and pressures for the
left inboard and outboard tires. 

After several attempts to try to contact Columbia, Cain declared a
contingency, whereby flight controllers began preserving documentation
regarding the entry phase of the flight. Recovery forces fanned out from
Texas to Louisiana to try to recover debris that will be pertinent to the
mishap investigation. 

Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said several teams have been
organized to gather data for analysis and will report to an external
investigation board that was appointed by Administrator O’Keefe.
Dittemore added that no specific orbiter debris or crew remains have been
positively identified at this time, and that there is no leading theory
for the cause of the accident. 

Dittemore said the processing of other shuttles at the Kennedy Space
Center for future launches has been temporarily halted to enable
engineers to review data regarding vehicle processing and to focus
attention on capturing all pertinent information involving Columbia’s
prelaunch preparations. 

NASA managers will be meeting on a regular basis to begin reviewing data
associated with Columbia’s investigation. The next status briefing from
the Johnson Space Center is tentatively scheduled from the Johnson Space
Center, Houston, TX at 12:00 p.m. CST Sunday. It will be seen on NASA
Television with two-way question and answer capability for reporters from
NASA centers. 

NASA TV can be found on AMC-2, Transponder 9C, vertical polarization at
85 degrees West longitude, 3880 MHz, with audio at 6.8 MHz. 

On the International Space Station, Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox,
Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit
were informed of the loss of Columbia and its crew shortly after a
Russian Progress resupply vehicle undocked from the ISS. Filled with
discarded items no longer needed on the ISS, the Progress was commanded
to deorbit by Russian flight controllers and reentered the Earth’s
atmosphere. 

A new Progress cargo ship will be launched Sunday from the Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:59 a.m. CST (1259 GMT) filled with supplies
for the Expedition 6 crew. It is scheduled to dock to the ISS Tuesday
morning. ISS program officials say, if necessary, the current resident
crew could remain in orbit until late June with the supplies being
ferried to the station on the new Progress. 

Additional status reports will be issued as new information becomes
available. 

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