The Launch of STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia. Photo online courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
There are no survivors.
President George W. Bush
February 1, 2003
Ronald Reagan, a survivor of John Hinkley’s bullet, studied the television screen as Columbia - America’s first shuttle - blasted into space. It was April 12, 1981. The President had been shot two weeks before (on March 30, 1981 - barely two months after taking office) and was recovering in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.
In 2001, as Mr. Reagan battled the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, NASA celebrated the 20th anniversary of that historic first flight. Although the oldest shuttle in the fleet, Columbia (OV-102) had been refitted. She would soon be ready for another mission - STS 107 - which was delayed until January 16, 2003.
This time, however the shuttle would fly without a robotic arm onboard. This time, there would be no space walks. This time, the mission was completely dedicated to scientific experiments.
And this time, an American Space Transportation System would fail to successfully re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.