Again, a Space Shuttle returns to earth in fragments, and it brings back memories of the first shuttle disaster, Challenger. I found out walking to my car in the parking lot of my university. I don’t know why I recall where I was so vividly, but I do. I kept up with the recovery, and the investigation into cause, and then I tuned out.

And this morning, I found out about Columbia while lying in bed and listening to radio, but I ran to CNN to see, and the awful truth was there, replayed in full color glory over and over.

The recovery effort will be impressive; remember the weeks they spent getting everything possible off the seafloor? Here we’re dealing with about 150 miles of scattered debris, but very little will be under water.

The NASA website tonight has the following:


A Space Shuttle contingency was declared on Saturday in Mission Control when communication was lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia during its return to Earth following a 16-day mission.

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

Flight controllers in Mission Control immediately began the process of securing all information, notes and data pertinent to today’s reentry and landing.

News media wishing to cover the investigation should go to a NASA Center newsroom or watch NASA Television for the latest developments. NASA TV is on AMC-2, Transponder 9C, vertical polarization at 85 degrees West longitude, 3880 MHz, with audio at 6.8 MHz.

Anyone who believes they have found debris related to Columbia should call the Johnson Space Center Emergency Operations Center, (281)-483-3388. Be aware that hazardous chemicals may be present; do not disturb or move any debris.

All debris is United States Government property and is critical to the investigation of the shuttle accident. Any and all debris from the accident is to be left alone and reported to Government authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. (emphasis mine)

That last sentence bears remembering. I’m absolutely sure that shuttle pieces will be turning up on Ebay very soon, and I sincerely hope the government punishes the evil and warns the stupid. Texans are mostly very decent people, but there are the unscrupulous among us.

Rest in Peace, you brave seven astronauts. May your families cherish your memories, celebrate your accomplishments, and console themselves in the thanks of a grateful nation.