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1, 2003, in a tragic disaster that killed the shuttle's seven-astronaut crew.See how the Columbia shuttle accident occurred in this infographic.
The astronauts probably survived the initial breakup of Columbia, but lost consciousness in seconds after the cabin lost pressure. In the weeks after the disaster, a dozen officials began sifting through the Columbia disaster, led by Harold W. CAIB recommended NASA ruthlessly seek and eliminate safety problems, such as the foam, to ensure astronaut safety in future missions.
It also called for more predictable funding and political support for the agency, and added that the shuttle must be replaced with a new transportation system."The shuttle is now an aging system but still developmental in character.
At that point, Columbia was near Dallas, travelling 18 times the speed of sound and still 200,700 feet (61,170 meters) above the ground.
Mission Control made several attempts to get in touch with the astronauts, with no success.
Then, tire pressure readings from the left side of the shuttle also vanished.
This image is a view of the underside of Columbia during its entry from mission STS-107 on Feb. This image was received by NASA as part of the Columbia accident investigation and is being analyzed.
Columbia was the first space shuttle to fly in space; its first flight took place in April 1981, and it successfully completed 27 missions before the disaster.
On its 28th flight, Columbia, on mission STS-107, left Earth for the last time on Jan. At the time, the shuttle program was focused on building the International Space Station.
In all, 84,800 pounds, or 38 percent of the total dry weight of Columbia, was recovered. Twelve minutes later, when Columbia should have been making its final approach to the runway, a mission controller received a phone call.
The caller said a television network was showing video of the shuttle breaking up in the sky.