On the 1st of February 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia, one of NASA’s premier space shuttles🚀 disintegrated while re-entering earth’s atmosphere after a 16-day mission.

It led to the death😢 of all seven crew members including Indian-born Kalpana Chawla who was a mission specialist on that expedition.



What was the cause?

While returning to Earth, a piece of foam insulation broke off😟 from the shuttle’s external tank and struck its left wing.

The damage allowed hot atmospheric gases💭 to penetrate the shuttle’s heat shield and destroy its internal wing structure.

It caused the spacecraft to become unstable↘ and break apart.

Later on during the investigation🔍, it turned out that the technical fault such as the one, in this case, had occurred before without becoming any cause for concern.

A legendary workhorse

Columbia was the first☝ space shuttle to fly in space with its maiden flight in 1981.



It successfully completed✌ 27 missions before the disaster.

Paralyzing impact

Following the loss of Columbia, NASA grounded🚫 its three remaining shuttles: Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour leading to the suspension of the entire space shuttle program.

NASA redesigned🧐 its shuttles’ external tanks and implemented other safety measures.

It maintained its shuttle fleet long enough to complete🙂 the construction of the International Space Station.



Eventually, it retired its whole space shuttle program in 2011 after 135 missions🛰 in total.