Space Shuttle Columbia: Its Final Mission

The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere Feb. 1, 2003.
Inside Science Contributor

(Inside Science) -- On Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board. During liftoff, a piece of foam broke off from a tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing. The damage was originally thought not to be significant, but it ultimately caused the shuttle to break apart during reentry -- less than 20 minutes away from touchdown. At the time, Philip Metzger, planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, was part of the team that investigated the Columbia disaster. He talks about looking at spectators’ camcorder video recordings of the shuttle coming in over the ocean. He realized there was a lot of physics captured the footage that he thought could be extracted to help figure out what happened.