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Remembering the NASA Columbia crew 18 years later

The seven-member crew was 16 minutes from landing when the space shuttle broke up upon re-entry.
Credit: NASA

It's been 18 years since the seven-member crew of NASA's space shuttle Columbia lost their lives upon their return to Earth. 

On Feb. 1, 2003, the STS-107 mission crew was 16 minutes from landing when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle.

A piece of foam had fallen from the external tank during launch and opened a hole in one of the shuttle's wings. The action lead the orbiter to break up upon re-entry, according to the agency.

The incident claimed the lives of: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Blair Salton Clark and Ilan Ramon.

Addressing the nation, at the time, then-President George W. Bush said, "mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on." 

The crew had just completed a 16-day mission focused on researching physical, life, and space sciences, according to NASA.

A remembrance was held for the Columbia crew along with other fallen astronauts in January.

"In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could reach the stars," NASA wrote in a tribute video.

What occurred with the Columbia marked the second disaster under the space shuttle era at NASA. In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. Six astronauts and the first space-bound teacher lost their lives in the incident.

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