Friday, February 2, 2018

Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster One Day Over 15 Years Ago

Not til this morning of February 2, did I realize, via the Fort Worth Connie D, that yesterday, February 1, was the 15th anniversary of the day the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry.

This seems so recent, yet it was 15 years ago. It may seem recent, but my memory of that day is hazy.

I remember laying on the floor, I think it was a Sunday morning, drinking coffee whilst reading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which way back then I still subscribed to the hard copy version.

It was while on the floor I learned of the shuttle disaster. Before thinking about it I would have said I heard the explosion. But I think that memory is conflating the shuttle disaster with the Sunday morning when I heard three loud bangs which I was to learn a few minutes later were Mt. St. Helens erupting.

If I remember right, I later learned people in the D/FW zone claimed to have heard the shuttle explosion. But, I did not hear anything. I also do not remember how I learned of the disaster. I know I did not have a TV on, or a radio. Yet I learned of it almost as it happened.

I Googled "Columbia Disaster" to see if anything refreshed any of my faulty memory. The Wikipedia Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster article is interesting. Many details I did not remember or know about.

The Wikipedia article includes a timeline of the disaster. The following is the D/FW part of the timeline...

9:00:18 Videos and eyewitness reports by observers on the ground in and near Dallas indicated that the Orbiter had disintegrated overhead, continued to break up into smaller pieces, and left multiple ion trails, as it continued eastward. In Mission Control, while the loss of signal was a cause for concern, there was no sign of any serious problem. Before the orbiter broke up at 9:00:18, the Columbia cabin pressure was nominal and the crew was capable of conscious actions. Although the crew module remained mostly intact through the breakup, it was damaged enough that it lost pressure at a rate fast enough to incapacitate the crew within seconds, and was completely depressurized no later than 9:00:53.

I do not remember if it was February 1, 2003 that the traffic alert signs on the D/FW freeways began telling us to "CALL POLICE TO REPORT SPACE SHUTTLE DEBRIS".

I took the photo you see above, of one of those alerts, on the 820 freeway in east Fort Worth.

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