Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up On Re-Entry: Seven Astronauts Killed

The space shuttle Columbia broke up as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere this morning, Australian time, just minutes before it was to land at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

ColumbiaPresident Bush, addressing the nation on television, said “Columbia is lost. There are no survivors.”

The shuttle, the oldest in the US fleet, was carrying 7 people, including Israel’s first astronaut. They were: William McCool, Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, pictured above on January 20.

Columbia crewDebris rained down across a wide area of Texas, Lousiana, New Mexico and other states. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is now attempting to secure the debris for analysis and has warned people not to touch it because of possible contamination.

Terrorism has been ruled out as a cause of the disaster. Damage to protective thermal tiles on the left wing of Columbia is now the focus of investigation. It appears that the first indication of trouble was the loss of temperature sensor readings in that wing.

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