February 1, 2003 was a sad Saturday for America, India and Israel.
Seven astronauts from these countries died when their space shuttle, The Columbia fell apart and burnt up over Texas in the United States of America.
Astronauts are people who are trained to travel in space. Being an astronaut is not a profession like engineering, pilots, teachers,
doctors or any other profession.
You only train to travel in space thus becoming an astronaut.
Vehicles for travel in space are called spacecrafts. Some spacecrafts are rockets and others are shuttles. Space shuttles take off like rockets but land like aeroplanes. The Columbia was a space shuttle. It took off into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA on January 16, 2003 and was expected back on February 1, 2003.
While in space, the astronauts communicated with the Mission Control base in Texas, USA about what they were doing how they were feeling and what they were seeing using radios and e-mail.
The spacecraftâ€™s last communication with earth was at 8:59am a few minutes before it was supposed to land.
It blew up with a big bang a few minutes before it was supposed to land. Scientists believe it might be because of a metal on the shuttle that melted as it entered the atmosphere. The temperatures up there can be as high as 1,650Â°C and that is about 10 times hotter than an oven at home. When things are too hot, they break up.
This was Columbiaâ€™s 28th time to go up into space. Columbiaâ€™s first flight was on April 12, 1981 when most of you were not yet born and it was unmanned. Unmanned shuttles are those sent to space without people. This time, it had seven people and so it was a manned shuttle.
The people on the shuttle were Ilan Ramon from Israel, Kalpana Chawla an Indian-American, Laurel Clark, David Brown, Michael Anderson. Rick Husband and Willie McCool. Apart from Ramon, all the other astronauts were from USA. They all had families and friends who will miss them very much.
Columbia is the second shuttle the US has lost. Challenger, the first shuttle blew up one minute and 13 seconds after take off on January 28, 1986. On the shuttle were also seven people. Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resink, Elison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe all died when the shuttle blew apart.
McAuliffe was a teacher by profession while the others were scientists.
Many people now feel that spacecraft should not have people on them because life is so precious. Computer controlled crafts can do the experiments.
Compiled by Rosemary Moro
And the Columbia broke into pieces