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Happily, Columbia came back safely. Several more test flights ran between and This included perhaps the most dramatic landing of the shuttle program, STS An "autoland" system malfunctioned before landing on STS-3; the crew took over as planned just before landing, but the shuttle touched the runway faster than normal. After landing, Columbia's nose pitched up unexpectedly due to a software problem, according to commander Jack Lousma's oral history with NASA; it looked as though the shuttle was bobbing on the runway.

New shuttle Challenger took on the next three flights, and then Columbia flew once more in November , carrying the Spacelab experiment module for the first time as well as the first European Space Agency astronaut.

Columbia was then shelved for major upgrades including adding heads-up displays before flying on just one mission in ; that mission carried Democrat Bill Nelson on board , among the astronauts. Shuttle operations were interrupted by Challenger's demise in January It wouldn't be until that Columbia flew again. Columbia flew 28 missions in its lifetime, logging more than days in space. In its earliest days it participated in repairing and deploying satellites and telescopes, but as NASA's priorities changed to science, Columbia flew several productive science missions in the s and s.

Over the years it flew several microgravity laboratory missions and did a tethered satellite system experiment, among other things. In and , though, Columbia shifted operations back into telescope operations. A suspected hydrogen problem scrubbed the initial launch only seven seconds before liftoff, but upon further examination NASA determined that the high readings were false.

Excerpt: The Voyage of the James Caird by Ernest Shackleton | AMNH

Columbia lifted off on July 23, , but its orbit was seven miles shallower than planned due to a slightly early main engine cutoff. Adjustments in orbit were necessary to bring Columbia to the correct altitude. The crew successfully let go of Chandra during the mission. Columbia's mission consisted of telescope repair, as the STS crew did servicing on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Over five spacewalks, several astronaut crew members replaced an aging power control unit, removed and installed solar arrays and did science instrument upgrades.

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Servicing time hit a record, at the time, of 35 hours and 55 minutes. Columbia's last flight was STS, a nearly day research mission focusing on scientific experiments. The crew included the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and the first Indian-born woman in space, Kalpana Chawla , was. As the shuttle went through the final minutes of its re-entry on Feb. Controllers spent several minutes trying to hail the shuttle as the families of the astronauts waited at the expected landing site at the Kennedy Space Center.

As the communications blackout lengthened, and video footage emerged of a large flying object breaking into pieces , it became clear that the crew had not survived. According to a crew survival report released by NASA in , the crew likely lived through the initial breakup but fell unconscious quickly as the cabin depressurized.

They died as the shuttle broke up around them. Their remains were retrieved, identified through DNA and returned to the families. NASA, government officials and an army of volunteers spent months after the breakup retrieving pieces and crew remains from the ground. Although reliable reports came in spotting debris in Utah, Nevada and New Mexico, the westernmost part of the debris was found near Littlefield, Texas. Thousands of pieces were retrieved in Texas and Louisiana. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board was formed to look at the causes of the breakup and to prevent it from happening again.

Harold W. Gehman Jr.


Joint Forces Command, chaired the board. It included participation from a dozen people, including NASA officials and former astronaut Sally Ride , who was also a member of Challenger's investigation. The board concluded that a piece of foam from Columbia's external tank hit the shuttle during launch and caused a fatal breach in Columbia's wing.

This "foam debris" problem was well-known and documented in the years before Columbia's launch, but over time NASA grew to accept it as part of spaceflight. The board recommended this problem be addressed. NASA made changes to the external tank as well as put in new safety procedures for shuttle missions. Among them, on every spaceflight, the crew was required to spend several hours scanning the shuttle's bottom for broken tiles.

The agency still remembers Columbia, as well as past crews lost in the pursuit of spaceflight, on an annual Day of Remembrance every January. At Saturday night concerts, Hussey would play his banjo as the men sang vulgar songs. By the beginning of August, food was growing scarce. They dug up old seal bones and stewed them in sea water along with seaweed, which they found "very tasty. McIlroy and Macklin amputated the frostbitten toes of Blackborrow's feet by the light of the blubber stove. Meanwhile, the James Caird was making three miles per hour between the icebergs. Worsley described structures and creatures etched into the mighty bergs: "Swans of weird shape pecked at our planks, a gondola steered by a giraffe ran foul of us, which much amused a duck sitting on a crocodile's head.

Just then a bear, leaning over the top of a mosque, nearly clawed our sail All the strange, fantastic shapes rose and fell in stately cadence with a rustling, whispering sound and hollow echoes to the thudding seas But the going was very rough. The sleeping bags became soaked, making it increasingly difficult to find warmth. The boulders taken aboard for ballast had to be shifted continually in order to trim the boat and give access to the pump, which became clogged with hairs from the molting reindeer sleeping bags. The insides of their thighs were rubbed raw by wet clothing which had not been changed for seven months, with seawater increasing the pain.

Meals were regular in spite of the stormy weather They had six and a half gallons of fuel for the oil lamp which complemented their supply of candles. On the fourth day out, a severe storm hit them. During the afternoon they spotted small bits of wreckage, probably the remains of some unfortunate vessel.

The next day the storm was so fierce that they had to put out the sea anchor in order to keep her heading into the sea, take in the double-reefed mainsail and hoist the small jib instead. A thousand different times it appeared the small boat would capsize but she lived on. The south-westerly gale was born above the Antarctic continent and with it came temperatures near zero.

The sea spray froze on the boat, coating everything with a heavy layer of ice that the men had to chip away at continually. By the next day the weight of the ice became a serious problem as she became more like a log than a boat. First the men broke away the spare oars, which were encased in ice and frozen to the sides of the boat, and threw them overboard. Two of the fur sleeping bags, frozen stiff as a board and weighing a good forty pounds each, went next.

About 11 a. They had no choice but to set sail and trust that it would hold. They beat the canvas until the bulk of the ice had cracked off and, fortunately, it worked, as the little boat came up to the wind again.

Frostbite became a serious problem as large blisters developed on exposed fingers and hands. By the dawn of the seventh day, the wind had subsided The Sun came out and the men hung their sleeping bags to the mast and spread their socks and other gear all over the deck. The ice began to melt away as porpoises came blowing alongside the boat. Cape Pigeons and an occasional Stormy Petrel swooped within a few feet of the tiny craft. Wild "snapped" the Sun and determined they had gone over miles and were nearly half-way to South Georgia. The eighth, ninth, and tenth days of the voyage had little to report.

James Cook

On the eleventh day May 5 , a tremendous cross-sea developed and at midnight, while Shackleton was at the tiller, a line of clear sky was spotted between the south and south-west. Shackleton wrote, "I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave.

During twenty-six years' experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so gigantic. It was a mighty upheaval of the ocean, a thing quite apart from the big white-capped seas that had been our tireless enemies for many days.

White surged the foam of the breaking sea around us. We felt our boat lifted and flung forward like a cork in breaking surf. We were in a seething chaos of tortured water; but somehow the boat lived through it, half full of water, sagging to the dead weight and shuddering under the blow. We bailed with the energy of men fighting for life, flinging the water over the sides with every receptacle that came to our hands, and after ten minutes of uncertainty we felt the boat renew her life beneath us.

It was 3 a. The next day, May 6, Worsley determined that they were not more than a hundred miles from the northwest corner of South Georgia Thirst took possession of them. Their mouths were dry and tongues were swollen. On the morning of May 8, about 10 o'clock, a little bit of kelp was passed. An hour later two birds were seen sitting on a big mass of kelp, and at p.

by Ryan, John J

They looked for a landing place but the presence of blind rollers proved the existence of uncharted reefs along the coast. Here and there were rocks close to the surface and over them great waves broke, spouting thirty to forty feet in the air. Night was drawing near and despite their craving for water, there was no choice but to wait until the following morning to make shore.

It was not until dawn arrived on the morning of May 10 that they sighted an indentation which they thought was King Haakon Bay That afternoon, after tacking five times into the strong wind, between angry reefs and great glaciers on both sides, they made it through the small entrance into the wide mouth of the bay The entrance was so small that they had to take in the oars but in the gathering darkness, the James Caird ran on a swell and touched the beach.

Hold on! Shackleton thought the black snow-crested cliff above them was a giant wave. Unfortunately, the men had landed on the unpopulated side of the island. A seventeen-mile journey over South Georgia's mountains and glaciers to the Stromness whaling station awaited them, an effort no one had ever accomplished.