Space shuttle Columbia launches on mission STS-107, January 16, 2003. CREDIT: NASA Enlarge
Ten years after the devastating Columbia space shuttle accident that took the lives of seven astronauts, NASA is building a new spacecraft that will take humans farther into space than ever before, and will incorporate the safety lessons learned from the disaster that befell the agency Feb. 1, 2003.
That day, the shuttle Columbia was returning from a 16-day trip to space devoted to science research. But what began as a routine re-entry through Earth's atmosphere ended disastrously as the orbiter disintegrated about 200,000 feet (61 kilometers) over Texas.
Later analysis found that Columbia was doomed during its launch, when a small bit of foam insulation broke off the shuttle's external fuel tank and tore a hole in the orbiter's wing. That hole prevented Columbia from withstanding the scorching heat of re-entry.
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