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Photos: Remembering the Columbia 21 years later

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) – 21 years have passed since the Columbia space shuttle experienced a catastrophic failure and left debris scattered over East Texas.

From the Archives: Remembering Columbia, the national tragedy that landed in East Texas’ backyard

Rick D. Husband (Commander), William C. McCool (Pilot), David Brown (Mission Specialist), Laurel Blair Salton Clark (Mission Specialist), Michael P. Anderson (Payload Commander), Ilan Ramon (Payload Specialist) and Kalpana Chawla (Mission Specialist) was the crew assembled on the Columbia, which at the time of the mission in 2003 was NASA’s oldest orbiter.

The Columbia crew patch shows names of all crew members.
The Columbia crew patch shows names of all crew members.

NASA said that the crews mission was not to go to the space station, but to orbit for 16 days while completing scientific microgravity research.

  • STS-107 astronauts Kalpana Chawla, left, and Rick D. Husband in the Spacehab research module, courtesy of NASA
    STS-107 astronauts Kalpana Chawla, left, and Rick D. Husband in the Spacehab research module, courtesy of NASA
  • Laurel B. Clark, wearing purple gloves, works on an experiment in the Spacehab module, courtesy of NASA
    Laurel B. Clark, wearing purple gloves, works on an experiment in the Spacehab module, courtesy of NASA
  • David M. Brown works with a camera in the Spacehab module, courtesy of NASA
    David M. Brown works with a camera in the Spacehab module, courtesy of NASA
  • William C. “Willie” McCool works on a blood sample, courtesy of NASA
    William C. “Willie” McCool works on a blood sample, courtesy of NASA
  • In-flight STS-107 crew photo, with Red Team members Kalpana Chawla, left, Rick D. Husband, Laurel B. Clark,and Ilan Ramon at bottom, and Blue Team members David M. Brown, left, William C. “Willie” McCool, and Michael P. Anderson, at top, courtesy of NASA
    In-flight STS-107 crew photo, with Red Team members Kalpana Chawla, left, Rick D. Husband, Laurel B. Clark,and Ilan Ramon at bottom, and Blue Team members David M. Brown, left, William C. “Willie” McCool, and Michael P. Anderson, at top, courtesy of NASA

While the mission was a success, it was the return where disaster struck. Due to damage from the foam insulation used at launch striking and damaging the Columbia’s left wing, the shuttle experienced catastrophic failure just 16 minutes from its destination. The incident killed all seven crew members and sent debris falling all over East Texas.

  • This was identified as the nosecone of the Columbia found in Hemphill. Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    This was identified as the nosecone of the Columbia found in Hemphill. Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
  • Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.
    Photo from KETK archives showing wreckage found in East Texas after the Columbia disaster.

The aftermath of the wreckage brought both media and federal attention to East Texas. A command center formed in Rusk where both local and federal officials worked nonstop to collect the debris left behind from the Columbia.

NASA’s little helicopter on Mars has logged its last flight

Even 21 years later, this event remembered throughout the nation, and East Texas specifically. More information regarding the Columbia STS-107 mission, including the crew members that were lost, can be found here.

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