Astronomy and Space


What was the cause of the Columbia space shuttle disaster?

The Columbia space shuttle was launched on January 16, 2003 on mission STS–107. The mission was a research mission and the crew had many science experiments ranging from plant growth to a cancer drug study to studying the effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system. The Columbia space shuttle was lost during its re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. The investigation of the disaster determined that a piece of foam insulation broke off shortly after liftoff and damaged the thermal protection system on the leading edge of the orbiter’s left wing. As the space shuttle descended, super-hot gases entered the interior aluminum structure of the orbiter. The internal wing structure was weakened and eventually the atmospheric forces tore off the wing. The final communication between Columbia and NASA flight controllers occurred at an altitude of approximately 203,000 feet (61,900 meters) over Texas. Debris from Columbia was later found in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.


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