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Columbia Tragedy

At 9 AM EST on Saturday, February 1, 2003 Mission Control, Houston lost communications with the Space Shuttle Columbia as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.

The deorbit burn occured at 8:15 a.m. EST (1315 GMT) for a planned landing on Kennedy Space Center Runway 33. Communication was lost with Columbia while Columbia was at approximately 200,000ft over Central Texas while the vehicle was traveling at 12,500 mph.

A Space Shuttle contingency was immediately declared.

Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time.

Television video of the shuttle re-entering the earth's atmosphere showed several white smoke trails, indicating the shuttle may have broken into pieces.

Search and rescue teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth and in portions of East Texas had been alerted. An extensive debris field covering Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona resulted from the break-up of the shuttle. Local law enforcement officials began to isolate and recover debris for investigation.

Flight controllers in Mission Control began to secure all information, notes and data pertinent to the entry and landing by Space Shuttle Columbia and continue to methodically proceed through contingency plans.

President Bush began gathering senior administration staff at the White House Saturday to discuss the apparent break-up of the space shuttle Columbia. President Bush was briefed on the apparent break-up Saturday morning, and decided to return to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David, where he was scheduled to spend the weekend.

Mr. Bush spoke with the director of the U-S space agency about 10:30 a-m local time.

Administration officials say Mr. Bush is awaiting further information from the U-S space agency, and will meet with senior staff Saturday afternoon.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 13:04:15 ZULU