Archive | February 1, 2003: Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates mid-flight

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Archives | February 1, 2003: Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates mid-flight

On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the sky during its return trip to Earth.

20 years ago, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its return flight to Earth. Our archives explain the reasons for this catastrophe.

“Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. So that February 1, 2003 will be remembered as a tragic date in the history of space exploration. »

— Michaëlle Jean

Journalist Line Pagé's report on the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia

It is with these words that the host of Téléjournal Michaëlle Jean announced on February 1, 2003 that a terrible accident had occurred in space a few hours earlier.

The space shuttle Columbia has disintegrated in the skies of Texas.

The disaster took place four days after the seventeenth anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986, which killed seven astronauts.

The seven astronauts aboard Columbia, an Israeli and six Americans, including two women, were undoubtedly killed instantly, pulverized at an altitude of approximately 60 kilometers.

The report by journalist Line Pagé reminds us that it was on January 16, 2003 that what was the sixteenth mission of the Columbia shuttle began.

Just 16 minutes before its scheduled landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Space Shuttle disappears from NASA's radar screens.

In Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, people report hearing the sound of a terrible explosion and seeing large white streaks and flames in the sky.

A rain of debris weighing up to several kilograms and ashes fall, sometimes causing damage and fires.

During takeoff from Columbia, it was found that part of the insulation, located between the central tank and the left wing of the shuttle, had come off.

Was this breakage the cause of the accident?

On August 26, 2003, NASA released its investigation report.

Report by journalist Michel Marsolais on the investigation report explaining the causes of the destruction of the shuttle Columbia.

As mentioned by the host of TéléjournalJosée Thibeault that same day, the investigation report confirms that the defect in the insulation foam observed during the takeoff of the shuttle Columbia partly explains its destruction.

But, adds Josée Thibeault, the investigators also conclude that failures in NASA's organizational culture are also partly to blame for the disaster.

The report by journalist Michel Marsolais takes a closer look at the findings of the commission of inquiry.

Investigators are adamant foam insulation was responsible for the Columbia explosion. left allowed the hot air to rush into the latter and caused the disintegration of the shuttle.

Another serious problem: NASA personnel knew of the weakness in the insulation foam, investigators point out.

But we underestimated this failure for years.

The Columbia mission also suffered from flawed analysis, missed opportunities and poor communications, write the 13 investigators.

These organizational problems present within the American Civil Space Agency are also partly responsible for the disaster of February 1, 2003, concludes the commission of inquiry.

Without accusing anyone, the investigators recall that the NASA budget devoted to the shuttle program was cut by 40% during the 1990s.

The commission of inquiry completes its report by proposing a series of recommendations, several of which must be implemented before the next departure of the Atlantis shuttle.

Report by journalist Karine Bastien on the end of NASA's space shuttle program

In 2011, NASA's space shuttle program ended, as recalled this report by journalist Karine Bastien presented on Téléjournal/Midi on July 21, 2011.

Scientific journalist Jean-Marc Carpentier affirms that we was witnessing the end of an era that day.

He adds that the space shuttle program is ending with mixed results.

The major objectives we set ourselves at the start have not been achieved, believes Jean-Marc Carpentier.

The So were American space shuttles definitely dead and buried?

Not quite.

Between November 16 and December 11, 2022, the Artemis I mission takes place.

This NASA mission aims to return on the lunar surface and to eventually establish a more or less continuous human presence there.

However, the Orion space capsule and the giant rocket, which are essential components of the mission Artemis I, are partially made up of recycled parts from space shuttles.

It is expected that the Artemis II, III and IV missions will also use parts salvaged from space shuttles.

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