BY JUSTIN RAY

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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2003

A military radar system shows indications that an object might have separated from the shuttle Columbia in orbit, prompting a review of telemetry by NASA flight controllers to look for signs of anything - including impact by high-velocity space debris - that might have contributed to the shuttle's breakup Feb. 1 during re-entry. Read our full story.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2003

After a day of media speculation about Air Force imagery reportedly showing clear evidence of structural damage at or near the leading edge of the shuttle Columbia's left wing, NASA released a single blurry frame late today that raised more questions than it answered. Read our full story.

1830 GMT (1:30 p.m. EST)

A large section of one of the shuttle Columbia's wings has been found near Fort Worth, a NASA official said today, but it's not yet clear whether it's the right wing or the left, the one that suffered a catastrophic structural problem during the ship's re-entry Saturday. Read our full story.

1530 GMT (10:30 a.m. EST)

Former astronaut Robert Crippen, pilot of the shuttle Columbia for its maiden voyage in 1981, remembered NASA's oldest orbiter today in a moving tribute before a throng of workers gathered on the broad shuttle runway at the Kennedy Space Center. Read our full story.

0450 GMT (11:50 p.m. EST Thurs.)

High-resolution images taken from a ground-based Air Force tracking camera in southwestern U.S. show serious structural damage to the inboard leading edge of Columbia's left wing, as the crippled orbiter flew overhead about 60 seconds before the vehicle broke up over Texas killing the seven astronauts on board February 1. Read full story.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2003

Amid congressional concern about NASA's objectivity in the wake of the Columbia disaster Saturday, the quasi-independent Accident Investigation Board, beefed up with non-NASA staff and board members, will assume the mantle of sole authority in determining what caused the crash that claimed the lives of seven astronauts. Read our full story.

1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)

International space station planners are debating the possibility of launching a two- or three-man caretaker crew in late April or early May aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to replace the lab's current crew and to keep the outpost occupied until space shuttle flights resume. Read our full story.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2003

Shuttle program manager Ronald Dittemore told reporters Wednesday they were, in effect, mistaken if they assumed from previous briefings the Columbia disaster investigation was focused primarily on the possibility foam debris from the ship's external tank triggered the orbiter's destruction during entry Saturday. Read our full story.

2222 GMT (5:22 p.m. EST)

Dittemore says the theory of the foam chunk that hit Columbia contained ice is highly unlikely. The ice inspection team that surveyed the shuttle in the hours before launch found no evidence of ice in that area of the tank. Also, January 16 wasn't a day with icing conditions, he said.

"It is something else. It is something else," Dittemore repeated, saying this foam isn't believed to be the cause of Columbia's disaster.

2206 GMT (5:06 p.m. EST)

Engineers remain confident in their understanding of the size and weight of the debris seen hitting Columbia's wing. Analysis determined the impact wouldn't significantly damage the shuttle or pose a safety issue.

"We believe there is something else," Dittemore said. "It just does not make sense to us that a piece of debris is the root cause for the loss of Columbia and crew."

He repeated the message from Monday that the "missing link" remains to be found.

2156 GMT (4:56 p.m. EST)

NASA has released new images showing before-and-after views of Columbia's wing from the foam impact during launch. Although the views are not high-resolution, there does not appear to be any "gross" change in the tile area, Dittemore said.

2155 GMT (4:55 p.m. EST)

In his technical news conference, shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore says the efforts to recover the 32 seconds of additional data from Columbia -- which was received on the ground but not displayed in Mission Control -- have been "relatively unsuccessful" thus far. Although hope remains that knowledge ultimately will be gained from the data, engineers are currently not satisfied with validity of the data examined.

In other developments, teams are taking the known data about the unusual increased heating on certain parts of Columbia before breakup and trying to determine where the heat source would have to be on the vehicle. Tests are also being performed to learn more about external tank foam impact and orbiter tile strength.

2045 GMT (3:45 p.m. EST)

The recovered remains of Columbia's crew were flown in flag-draped caskets from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware today aboard a C-141 Starlifter. Deputy NASA Administrator Frederick Gregory was expected to render honors to the crew.

NASA said the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover will prepare the remains for return to the families. Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon's remains will be flown to his home in Israel for burial. Final funeral arrangements for the crew are still to be announced.

1700 GMT (12:00 p.m. EST)

Mike Kostelnik, NASA's deputy associate administrator for the office of spaceflight, is giving his morning update from Headquarters. He reports there is still no confirmation from the teams sent to California and Arizona that the items found are indeed from Columbia. Amateur video from Saturday's reentry showed signs of pieces coming off the shuttle as it streaked overhead. Space agency officials said the reports of debris found out west were credible enough to deploy the teams to investigate.

In the main debris fields in Texas and Louisiana, workers are putting red tags on items that are deemed of great interest to investigators for quicker inspection.

Kostelnik also said the efforts to recover the 32 seconds of lost data from Columbia continues.

1600 GMT (11:00 a.m. EST)

A pair of NASA briefings are scheduled today -- 11:30 a.m. EST from NASA Headquarters and 4:30 p.m. EST from Johnson Space Center.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2003
2137 GMT (4:37 p.m. EST)


NASA's deputy associate administrator for the office of spaceflight, Mike Kostelnik, is telling reporters at a news conference underway right now at NASA Headquarters that the agency has dispatched experts to California and Arizona where reports of shuttle debris have been received. If the items turn out to be pieces of Columbia, that information could be a crucial to understanding what happened to the orbiter Saturday morning.

2115 GMT (4:15 p.m. EST)

NASA officials say more assistance has been added in the effort to collect and transport the Columbia debris.

"NASA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency are working expeditiously to recover Space Shuttle Columbia debris. The agencies are working as rapidly as possible to protect public safety, honor the needs of astronaut families, and support the mishap investigation.

"NASA is adding additional expertise and staff to support clean-up efforts in affected communities. NASA has provided guidance to EPA to enable clean-up teams to assess and recover debris when agency personnel are not available. Additional personnel trained in handling hazardous material have been added to these teams. The public is reminded not to attempt to handle Shuttle debris, but to inform local authorities when debris is found.

"All agencies participating in the Columbia mishap investigation deeply appreciate the caring, patience, efforts and dedication local communities have demonstrated during this difficult time," NASA said in a statement.

2030 GMT (3:30 p.m. EST)

President Bush capped an emotional tribute to the lost Columbia astronauts at Johnson Space Center today. "Their mission was almost complete and we lost them so close to home," Bush said. "All mankind is in their debt." Read the Bush's speech.

1755 GMT (12:55 p.m. EST)

Retired Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., who chairs the independent Space Shuttle Accident Investigation Board, toured the recovery area in Texas today with other members of the panel.

"The purpose of our visit here today is to get out and look at some of the debris recovery area. This makes the accident more personal to us and prevents it from becoming an abstract event.

"We're not going to solve this today. We're here to see what the debris looks like and to get a sense of it personally.

"There are over 20 investigatory teams working on the various aspects of the Columbia accident. The board will take supervisory authority over all these activities.

"I'd like to compliment the many agencies involved in this effort. As you know, FEMA is in charge of the recovery effort, and our hats are off to the wonderful work they are doing.

"We have no timetable, but we have two main responsibilities here. One is to future astronauts, who need to know we've done everything possible to make it safe for them to fly. The other is to the three people currently in orbit on the International Space Station, who need to have the Shuttle program fly as soon as possible."

1730 GMT (12:30 p.m. EST)

President and Mrs. Bush have arrived near Houston for today's Columbia memorial service. The event begins at 1 p.m. EST at Johnson Space Center for the astronauts' families, NASA employees, contractor workers, government leaders and other invited guests.

1449 GMT (9:49 a.m. EST)

A fresh load of supplies has arrived at the International Space Station, enabling the three-man Expedition 6 crew to remain aboard the complex through late-June or early-July, if necessary. See our coverage of the docking here.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2003

Engineers studying data from the shuttle Columbia before it broke apart Saturday say temperature readings in the ship's left-side landing gear wheel well may be indicating a catastrophic "burn through" in a different part of the wing, not the wheel well itself. Read our full story.

2330 GMT (6:30 p.m. EST)

NASA says the piece of foam insulation that fell off Columbia's external fuel tank about 80 seconds into launch, hitting the left wing of the shuttle, appears to measure about 20 inches by 16 inches by 6 inches and weighed about 2.67 pounds.

Dittemore said analysis conducted during Columbia's flight concluded that although the foam might have caused some structural damage to the wing area, it would not have been sufficient to cause a catastrophic event.

2310 GMT (6:10 p.m. EST)

The start time for Thursday's memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral has been moved up to 10 a.m. EST.

2229 GMT (5:29 p.m. EST)

NASA wants to know if there is any debris -- tiles or other pieces of the orbiter -- in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico or northwest Texas, which would give investigators a key piece of information.

2212 GMT (5:12 p.m. EST)

In new information, Dittemore says that 8:52 a.m. EST was the first occurrence of temperature rise in the left wheel well area. That is earlier than NASA had previously said. The temperature increase was associated with the left main gear brake system.

Engineers have also determined that two yaw jet thrusters on Columbia were fired for 1.5-seconds to assist the aerosurfaces adjust the shuttle's attitude shortly before the breakup. Dittemore had previously said the aerosurfaces were moving to counteract what is believed to be increased aerodynamic drag, possibly due to missing or rough tiles.

2206 GMT (5:06 p.m. EST)

"Tomorrow, we are going to pause and reflect on the crew of Columbia," Dittemore says of the memorial service to be held at Johnson Space Center. He will not hold a technical press conference out of respect.

2202 GMT (5:02 p.m. EST)

"Our recovery efforts are really beginning to pick up steam," NASA shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore is telling reporters at news conference currently underway from Houston. The work to collect and transport the debris to staging areas will become more frequent of the next few days, he said.

Pieces of Columbia have been located in hundreds and hundreds of locations in Texas and Louisiana.

2050 GMT (3:50 p.m. EST)

Earlier today at the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer fielded some questions concerning NASA's budget, a meeting between President Bush and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, building a replacement shuttle and more. Read the full transcript.

2020 GMT (3:20 p.m. EST)

President Bush today spoke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Before his speech about the Bioshield Initiative, his opening comments reflected on Columbia.

"Two days ago, America was yet reminded again of the sacrifices made in the name of scientific discovery. The seven brave men and women from the Columbia will be remembered for their achievements, their heroism and their sense of wonder. Our prayers are with their families and their loved ones.

"Their 16-day mission held the promise of answering scientific problems that allude us here on earth. Columbia carried in its payroll [sic] classroom experiments from some our students in America. I hope these children, our future scientists, will continue to ask questions, continue to explore, continue to discover.

"And while we grieve the loss of these astronauts, the cause of which they died will continue, America's journey into space will go on."

1750 GMT (12:50 p.m. EST)

A statement from the families of the Columbia astronauts has been released by NASA. Read the full statement.

1650 GMT (11:50 a.m. EST)

A NASA analysis of potential tile damage resulting from the impact of external tank foam insulation during the shuttle Columbia's launch concluded no significant damage would have resulted during re-entry even if multiple tiles were missing. Read our full story.

1600 GMT (11:00 a.m. EST)

Here's a look at some of the activities upcoming: NASA is planning two news conferences today -- 11:30 a.m. EST and 4:30 p.m. EST.

There are two memorial services being planned. The one at Johnson Space Center in Houston is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST Tuesday; and one at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, at 1 p.m. EST Thursday.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2003

NASA engineers are studying telemetry from the shuttle that indicates a sudden increase in temperature inside the left wing's main landing gear wheel well in the moments before the shuttle's destruction. What might have caused the temperature spikes, along with sensor malfunctions in the same area, is not yet known. But these could be indicators that whatever destroyed the shuttle started in this area. Read our full story.

2303 GMT (6:03 p.m. EST)

Dittemore confirms that the Columbia crew was informed during the mission of the tile hit that happened at launch. He said that the analysis performed a few days after launch indicated that the velocity and angle of the external tank foam insulation impacting the shuttle would not comprise Columbia's safety during reentry. Efforts to look at the shuttle from orbiting reconnaissance satellites or powerful observatories were not made. The astronauts had no way of viewing that area of the shuttle.

2230 GMT (5:30 p.m. EST)

In the NASA news briefing underway at this hour in Houston, space shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore says the review of telemetry from Columbia is revealing the unusual rise in temperatures on the left-side of the shuttle in the minutes leading to the breakup.

In addition, increased aerodynamic drag was noted on the left-side that could be caused by "rough tile" or missing tiles, Dittermore said.

But he stresses that investigators are not concentrating entirely on the tiles as the reason for Columbia's loss. Other potential root causes could be a structural failure or a flight control issue.

We'll have a full report on the NASA briefing a little later today.

2155 GMT (4:55 p.m. EST)

The President and Mrs. George W. Bush will join NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe Tuesday afternoon in paying tribute to the brave heroes of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew during a special memorial service at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Read the full details.

2120 GMT (4:20 p.m. EST)

NASA sources say a sizeable section of what may be the shuttle Columbia's forward fuselage has been found near the Lufkin-Nocogdoches area southeast of Dallas near the Louisiana border. Recovery teams continue to search for remains of Columbia's astronauts and while sources say remains have, in fact, been found, no details about the astronauts have been released out of deference to family members. Read our full story.

2115 GMT (4:15 p.m. EST)

Officials are saying a memorial service, with President Bush in attendance, is being planned for Tuesday at Johnson Space Center.

1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)

NASA has announced that it is planning two-per-day press briefings starting Monday. There will be a daily press briefing from NASA Headquarters in Washington at 11:30 a.m. EST and one from Houston's Johnson Space Center at 4:30 p.m. EST. Senior NASA officials will participate in the press briefings, the agency said.

1700 GMT (12:00 p.m. EST)

Today's NASA news conference from Johnson Space Center has been delayed until 4:30 p.m. EST.

1420 GMT (9:20 a.m. EST)

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has announced the members of the Space Shuttle Mishap Interagency Investigation Board. Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., will head the group. Read our full story.

1345 GMT (8:45 a.m. EST)

A day after the Columbia disaster, a freighter carrying cargo for the International Space Station was successfully launched from Central Asia aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket today, NASA has confirmed. Officials said the routine resupply mission would go forward as planned despite the shuttle accident. Read our full story.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

2002 in review
NEW! Astronomy Now and Spaceflight Now present 2002: a Year in Space -- a month-by-month pictorial record of the space events and discoveries during 2002. It is a must-have for all space enthusiasts!
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Multimedia clips
From Friday: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore updates the progress of the investigation.
  PLAY (67min 44sec QuickTime file)
Using detailed charts, Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore describes the preliminary timeline and illustrates when sensors in the shuttle's left wing either failed during Columbia's final eight minutes of flight or recorded abnormal pressure or temperature readings.
  PLAY (10min 42sec QuickTime file)
Former astronaut Robert Crippen remembers the space shuttle Columbia during the memorial service at Kennedy Space Center. He was pilot on the orbiter's first flight in 1981.
  PLAY (05min 54sec QuickTime file)
NASA astronaut James Halsell pays tribute to Columbia's lost seven astronauts.
  PLAY (07min 03sec QuickTime file)
From Thursday: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore updates the progress of the investigation.
  PLAY (45min 23sec QuickTime file)
From Wednesday: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore updates the progress of the investigation.
  PLAY (65min 32sec QuickTime file)
This long-range tracking camera footage shows foam insulation breaking free from the external fuel tank and striking the shuttle's left wing during launch.
  PLAY (16sec QuickTime file)
From Monday: updates the progress of the investigation on Monday afternoon from Johnson Space Center.
  PLAY (68min 41sec QuickTime file)
From Sunday: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore and Director of Flight Crew Operations Bob Cabana brief reporters on the progress of the investigation.
  PLAY (91min 57sec QuickTime file)
Watch the NASA TV coverage recorded as contact was lost with Columbia, including the final communications from the astronauts.
  PLAY (2min 41sec QuickTime file)
Capsule Communicator Charles Hobaugh in Mission Control attempts to regain communications with the Columbia crew.
  PLAY (1min 31sec QuickTime file)
NASA spokesman James Hartsfield announces that Mission Control was beginning contingency procedures due to the loss of contact with the shuttle.
  PLAY (34sec QuickTime file)
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe makes a statement at Kennedy Space Center in the hours following the Columbia tragedy.
  PLAY (8min 03sec QuickTime file)
Statement by NASA's Associate Administrator for Spaceflight William Readdy.
  PLAY (4min 10sec QuickTime file)

Full audio: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore and Chief Flight Director Milt Helfin brief reporters on the technical information immediately available on the shuttle Columbia disaster.
  PLAY (97min 25sec QuickTime file)

Columbia Report
A reproduction of the official accident investigation report into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven.
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Mars Panorama

DISCOUNTED! This 360 degree image was taken by the Mars Pathfinder, which landed on the Red Planet in July 1997. The Sojourner Rover is visible in the image.
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Apollo 11 Mission Report
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Rocket DVD
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Creating Space
Creating Space groups together the history, the vehicles and the models into logical and meaningful categories. This book is equally valuable to space enthusiasts, modellers, and space historians.
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Earth Calendar
NEW! This amazing 2003 calendar features stunning images of mountain ranges, volcanoes, rivers, and oceans obtained from previous NASA space shuttle missions.
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Hubble Calendar
NEW! This remarkable calendar features stunning images of planets, stars, gaseous nebulae, and galaxies captured by NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
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