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  Space shuttle breaks up on re-entry
Updated 01 February 2003, 19.14
Tv pictures of trails in the sky
The American space shuttle Columbia has broken up on re-entry over Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board.

The US space agency Nasa says it lost contact with the shuttle 15 minutes before it was due to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

In an address to the nation, President Bush said the astronauts who were killed had known the dangers of space travel.

He said America's space program would go on.

Falling metal

Search and rescue teams were despatched to an area where shutle debris may have come down.

Residents of one town said they found bits of metal strewn everywhere.

A dentist said a metal bracket about a foot long crashed through his office roof.

Nasa has warned that if any debris is found, no one should touch it as it's highly toxic.

The loss of Columbia comes almost exactly 17 years after the shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after take-off in 1986, killing all seven crew members on board.

First Israeli astronaut

Colonel Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli astronaut on board
Columbia was transporting the first Israeli astronaut and six other crew members back to Earth after a 16-day scientific mission.

It disappeared from Nasa's screens at 2.16pm as it was passing over Dallas.

According to Nasa, the shuttle was about 200,000 feet up and travelling at 12,500 mph when contact was lost.

Officials in Washington say there's no reason to believe that terrorism is to blame.

Experts have suggested it was probably a serious mechancial problem that caused the break-up.

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