Space Shuttle Disaster

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This one-hour program is divided into five chapters. Choose any chapter below and select QuickTime or Windows Media Player to begin viewing the video. If you experience difficulty viewing, it may be due to high demand. We regret this and suggest you try back at another time.

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Chapter 1
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An Experimental Vehicle

By the time Columbia takes off in January 2003, NASA had completed 87 successful space shuttle missions since the Challenger accident in 1986. But the spacecraft is still considered experimental.
running time 9:44

Chapter 2
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Safety Concerns

The capsules of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo had an auxiliary rocket that could propel the crew to safety if the main rockets failed. Challenger and Columbia had no such fail-safe.
running time 10:58

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A Tragedy in the Making

Eighty-one seconds after Columbia's lift-off, a large piece of foam insulation breaks off the external fuel tank and hits the Orbiter on its left wing. But mission managers believe the impact does not pose a safety problem.
running time 9:54

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The Investigation

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board finds that damage caused by the foam impact during launch caused the shuttle's sudden failure during reentry. In its report, the Board criticizes NASA's "broken" safety culture.
running time 8:53

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The Future of Spaceflight

In 2004, President Bush announces The Vision for Space Exploration, which directs NASA to build new spacecraft to take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and mandates the shuttle's retirement.
running time 9:30

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© | Created October 2008