Columbia Crew Remembered 10 Years After Accident

Good Morning America
Columbia Crew Remembered 10 Years After Accident
.

View photo

Columbia Crew Remembered 10 Years After Accident (ABC News)

Iain Clark is a teenager now. He was eight years old when his mother, Dr Laurel Clark, and six other astronauts died when the space shuttle Columbia fell apart in the skies over Texas 10 years ago today.

Iain's father, Dr. Jonathon Clark, told ABC News recently that he and Iain will never really recover.

"There will always be a sense of loss and pain and hurt," said Clark. "I've lost a lot, but I've gained a lot, too. I have a perspective and reverence for life. I have my son, and seeing him through this has been very rewarding -- though it has been difficult, as well."

Feb. 1, the anniversary of the Columbia accident, is the day NASA chooses to remember all the astronauts who have died during missions.

Spaceflight is a risky business. Some of the accidents are well known. Others, not really. But they all illustrate just how dangerous it is to leave our planet and venture into orbit.

READ MORE: Columbia Shuttle Crew Not Told of Possible Problem With Reentry

Three accidents, in particular, are seared in our memories because NASA's missions have been so dramatic, and so public.

First, there was the fire on Jan. 27, 1967, which killed Apollo 1's crew of Command Pilot "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White and Pilot Roger Chaffee. At the time, NASA was racing to beat the Soviet Union to the moon.

Second was the space shuttle Challenger's accident on Jan. 28, 1986, which was seen live by children across the country because its crew included the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.

Finally, Columbia's accident, on a clear, sunny Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, as it re-entered from space after a seemingly routine science mission, stunned the country. It also meant the end of NASA's space shuttle program.

This morning at 9:16 a.m. ET, the time Columbia would have landed at the Kennedy Space Center in 2003, there will be a minute of silence. A bell will toll seven times at the Johnson Space Center for the seven astronauts who died on Columbia's final mission, STS 107: Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Ilan Ramon.

It took months for the commission investigating the accident to determine the cause: foam. A piece the size of a briefcase broke off one of the shuttle's external fuel tanks, punching a hole in the orbiter's left wing.

The crew of seven knew something was wrong very late during re-entry, but there wasn't anything they or mission control could do to save them or Columbia. It took managers at the Johnson Space Center months to accept that something so simple as a piece of foam could do so much damage.

Wayne Hale, who guided NASA's space shuttle program back from the accident, was the only NASA employee who publicly accepted responsibility for Columbia's accident.

Hale now works in the private sector, but recently wrote in a blog about the internal discussion at mission control while engineers discussed what they thought might be a problem -- but weren't sure.

"After one of the MMTs [mission management teams] when possible damage to the orbiter was discussed," Hale wrote, "[Flight Director Jon Harpold] gave me his opinion: 'You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS [thermal protection system]. If it has been damaged it's probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don't you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?'

"I was hard pressed to disagree. That mindset was widespread. Astronauts agreed. So don't blame an individual; look for the organizational factors that led to that kind of a mindset. Don't let them in your organization.

"After the accident," he added, "when we were reconstituting the mission management team, my words to them were, 'We are never ever going to say that there is nothing we can do.' That is hindsight."

Twelve children lost a parent on Columbia.

Husband's daughter is a seminary student. Before his final mission he recorded Bible verses on videotape to be played back to his children while he was in space.

Israeli astronaut Ramon, a hero in his country, had a son who followed him as a fighter pilot, and who later died in a plane crash.

Iain Clark has become a young man his late mother would be proud to claim. He inherited many of her skills, is a master scuba diver and will soon be going to college.

His father, a former NASA flight surgeon, crusades for research to keep future astronauts safer on missions.

Astronauts now hunger to go to Mars, but a three-year round trip is not just a logistical and engineering challenge, it's life-threatening. There is no quick rescue.

View Comments (2)

Recommended for You

  • EXCLUSIVE: ‘Real Housewives’ Star Teresa Giudice Says Prison Was Like ‘Living in Hell’

    The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen. The reality TV star…

    Good Morning America16 mins ago
  • Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

    If you drive less than 50 miles per day, there is a way to pay less for auto insurance that few people realize. Are you overpaying?

    Provide-SavingsSponsored
  • Oscars Countdown: Stars Gather at Nominees Luncheon

    In “The Danish Girl,” Alicia Vikander’s character brims with tenderness and understanding. In “The Hateful Eight,” Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Daisy is no fragile flower. Both actresses are Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category. At Monday’s Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, the…

    Good Morning America16 mins ago
  • 2 Trains Collide in Germany, 8 Dead, at Least 100 Injured

    Two morning commuter trains have collided in Bad Aibling in southern Germany, killing eight people and injuring more than 100 others, police said.The train manufacturer, Meridian, released a statement in German, saying two trains collided just after 7 a.m. today local time.In a news conference,…

    Good Morning America38 mins ago
  • Marco Rubio Believes He Must Be ‘Doing Something Right’

    Sen. Marco Rubio today brushed off recent attacks by his GOP rivals, saying he must be "doing something right," and expressing confidence despite what he called the "unusual set up" in today’s New Hampshire primary. Despite Christie's attacks, Rubio believes he had "a very strong debate," and…

    Good Morning America40 mins ago
  • Everything You Need to Know About the New Hampshire Primary

    Regardless of who wins, there’s a reason for Granite Staters to celebrate: Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary. Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting a record surge in Republican ballots cast.

    Good Morning America45 mins ago
  • Dixville Notch Casts First Votes in New Hampshire Primary

    The nine voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, became some of the first in the state -- and consequently, first in the nation -- to cast their ballots in the presidential primary in the early hours of Tuesday. New Hampshire has held the "First in the Nation" presidential primary since 1920, and…

    Good Morning America45 mins ago
  • Father of 13-Year-Old Murder Victim 'Bet She Fought Like a Wildcat'

    The father of a 13-year-old girl allegedly murdered by a Virginia Tech student said he "bet she fought like a wildcat," according to a new interview. David Lovell, the father of Nicole Lovell, made the comments to Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview set to air Wednesday. “I bet she fought like a…

    Good Morning America52 mins ago
  • Good Morning America59 mins ago
  • Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

    Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak: Consumer Reports Shares Best Zika-Fighting Repellents

    With concern surrounding the Zika virus at an all-time high, Consumer Reports has re-released its exclusive ratings of mosquito repellents that best protect against the virus. The new release highlights the results regarding the Aedes Egypti mosquito, the mosquito known to carry and spread Zika. …

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America
  • 4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Scoring Beyonce Tour Tickets

    Minutes after Beyonce announced her 2016 Formation World Tour during Super Bowl 50, fans flooded to her website looking for more information about the tour, and temporarily crashed the site. Fans have also been tweeting in anticipation and excitement for the ticket sales to go live. Securing…

    Good Morning America
  • US Veteran Says He is 'ISIS Soldier,' Calls Bin Laden 'Beautiful Man,' Officials Say

    The FBI has arrested a former member of the Army on weapons charges after he allegedly expressed sympathy for ISIS, called Osama bin Laden "a beautiful man" and said the murder of government agents was "a hundred percent obligation," according to court documents filed in a Washington state federal…

    Good Morning America