Full coverage: The Columbia Disaster

Full coverage: The Columbia Disaster

The Columbia Disaster
Complete coverage of the space shuttle's breakup and the death of its crew on Feb. 1, 2003. Included below is a six-part series from December 2003 that was the product of six months of reporting, encompassing 130 interviews with accident investigators, scientists and NASA employees across the United States.

Front from left are astronauts Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Rear from left are David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist, representing the Israeli Space Agency. (NASA / AFP/Getty Images)

December 26, 2003

Swallowing the fire: Columbia's final voyage

Part 6: It was at best a make-work mission.

December 25, 2003

Firing point-blank at NASA's illusions

Part 5: Just after 10 a.m. during the second of Columbia's 16 full days in orbit, something drifted away from the shuttle at the speed of a brisk walk.

December 24, 2003

The fate of a wing shaped by politics

Part 4: Fragments of Columbia were laid out on a vast concrete floor like broken bones on an autopsy table.

December 23, 2003

Exhuming Columbia, one piece at a time

Part 3: By the Milk River on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana, Chauncy Birdtail woke up the day Columbia crashed the way he did most mornings — worried.

December 22, 2003

Curious outsiders get the jump on NASA

Part 2: Columbia was a white butterfly bolted to a bullet.

December 21, 2003

Decoding Columbia: A detective story

Part 1: James Hallock discovered just how little it takes to bring down a space shuttle.

February 9, 2003

MEDIA MATTERS DAVID SHAW

How the loss of Columbia eclipsed all other news

There is no question that this was a human tragedy and a devastating blow to our nation's space program, and we were all stunned and deeply saddened by it. But unlike, say, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Columbia disaster had no real or even potential effect on the lives of the vast majority of American citizens.

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