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  Columbia Timeline: What happened and when
Updated 02 February 2003, 15.16
The control room at Nasa
Nasa has started to try and find out what went wrong with the space shuttle Columbia which broke up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere on Saturday 1 February 2003.

Here are the facts as we know them, leading up to and immediately after the accident.

  • The weather was perfect to land a shuttle, and the Columbia should have set down at 9:16am Eastern Standard Time (EST), or 2:16pm UK time.

  • 8.15am EST: The shuttle entered Earth's atmosphere with its nose "tilted".

  • 8:53: The temperature sensors in the left wing stopped working.

  • 8:56: Sensors by the left wheel said there was a temperature increase.

    People in Texas saw trails in the sky
    People in Texas saw trails in the sky

  • 8:58: Shuttle was nearly 65km above the Earth, going at 18 times the speed of sound. Three temperature sensors on the left side of the shuttle stopped working.

  • 8:59: Sensors which check tyre pressure and temperature gave no information. Mission control contacted the shuttle to say: "Columbia, Houston. We see your tyre-pressure messages. We did not copy your last."

  • After a short wait, the shuttle replied: "Roger... erm..." Then the line was lost.

  • Many calls were made to Columbia, but the shuttle was silent.

  • People in Texas say they heard a huge bang and saw many white trails in the sky.

  • 9.16: Just after the shuttle should have landed, Nasa started its emergency plan. They telephoned President Bush to tell him the shuttle was lost.

  • Texan rescue units were sent to look for the shuttle and any survivors.

    A radar image showing the debris (in red)
    A radar image showing the debris (in red)

  • 9:30: Nasa Mishap Investigation Team was put together to find out what happened. An order was put out to make sure all information about the Columbia's launch, repair records and last minutes are kept safe.

  • Another Mishap Investigation Team has also been set up, made up of officials not in Nasa.

  • Nasa Administrator Sean O'Keefe talked to the families of the dead astronauts. Soon after, President Bush called them and promised a full investigation.

  • Over 2,000 different places have reported debris falling from the sky.

  • Sunday: World leaders join in offering tributes to the lost astronauts.

  • Russia launch an unmanned rocket carrying supplies to International Space Station.

More InfoBORDER=0
Sci/TechSpace shuttle: Questions & answers
PicturesIn pix: Space shuttle disaster
Find OutFull Columbia disaster section
ChatYour thoughts on the shuttle loss


Past StoriesBORDER=0
Space shuttle breaks up on re-entry
Columbia shuttle disaster
Columbia Timeline: What happened and when


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