Sunday marks 12th anniversary of Columbia disaster

Sunday marks the 12th anniversary of one of the most tragic moments in NASA's history.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. The crew had just completed a 16-day space mission. All seven astronauts aboard were killed: Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, David Brown, Michael Anderson and Ilan Ramon, who was Israel's first astronaut.

Investigators later learned that the shuttle was damaged during launch. A piece of foam insulation broke off the external fuel tank and hit the orbiter's left wing. The impact damaged Columbia's heat shield in that spot, allowing hot atmospheric gases to infiltrate the wing during re-entry

NASA honored all of its fallen astronauts with a special day of remembrance last Wednesday which was the 29th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle tragedy. Seven astronauts were killed in that disaster.

Three astronauts killed during NASA's first disaster, the Apollo 1 Fire, were also honored during the ceremony.    

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