Husband’s crew were shuttle pilot William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was the first Israeli to go into space.
All seven died 16 days later when the shuttle disintegrated on re-entry, the result of a chunk of insulating foam that had broken off from the external fuel tank and hit the left wing of the orbiter during the launch. The damage was fatal as the extreme heat would be the vessel’s demise as it streaked across the skies over Texas.
Columbia’s final mission was the orbiter’s 28th overall, the 113th mission for the shuttle program. It was the first of five space shuttles, launching on its first mission April 12, 1981 with the late John Young on board as commander along with pilot Robert Crippen.
Over 22 years, Columbia traveled more than 125 million miles orbiting the Earth 4,808 times while in space more than 300 days.
It ferried 160 astronauts over its career including Shannon Lucid, Story Musgrave, Eileen Collins, Charles Boldin and Sen. Bill Nelson.
The tragedy is one of three major ones in NASA’s history, all occurring in the early part of the year. The seven deaths aboard Columbia, seven deaths from the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, the deaths of three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967 and others lost in the pursuit of space will be honored on NASA’s Day of Remembrance.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex will hold a ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 25 with events starting at 10 a.m.