Those killed on the ill-fated shuttle flight were from left to right: mission specialists David M. Brown; commander Rick D. Husband; mission specialist Laurel Clark; mission specialist Kalpana Chawla; payload commander Michael P. Anderson; pilot William C. McCool; and Israel's first astronaut, payload specialist Ilan Ramon.

The space shuttle Columbia broke apart and burned up while reentering Earth’s atmosphere over Texas on February 1, 2003. The entire seven-member crew was killed as they returned to Earth after completing a series of scientific experiments. Initial investigations of the disaster pointed to a problem with the shuttle’s left wing, which was struck during liftoff by a piece of insulation from the external fuel tank. Such falling debris is common during launches, however, and NASA engineers felt the damaged wing posed no danger. The space shuttle fleet has been grounded indefinitely while the investigation proceeds and until preventive measures can be taken to insure that no similar accident can occur again.