The crew members of Shuttle mission STS 107

Posted On February 1, 2003

Our thoughts and prayers are turned towards the family, friends and colleagues of the crew.

2/2/2003: First tragic moments of the breakup of Shuttle STS 107 captured on video by OCA Member

Report by Liam Kennedy

John sent me some frames from the video that he has sent to NASA. These frames represent three instants in time for two different events.

John was observing the reentry of the space shuttle as it passed north of his home near Springville CA. He was also recording the event on his digital camcorder at the exact time (as he found out later) that Houston first reported abnormal instrumentation reports from the Shuttle (at 5:53am PST). This video may prove to be a critical piece of evidence in the investigation. John is submitting the original tape of his video directly to NASA and he has already spoken with NASA officials. You may also get to see this video on the NBC network.

I asked John to describe what he saw and if he realized what had happened at the time or if he only found out after viewing later television broadcasts of the tragic event he had witnessed and captured on his video.

"It was low in the north starting in the NW and traveling to the ENE. It never got more than about 15d above the horizon. They say it went right over SF but I guess they must have been fogged in because none of their video has shown up (yet).

It didn't occur to me, as the events were typical of satellite reentry's I'd seen. But on thinking about it and then hearing about the loss of radar returns I got to thinking. There were 2 "separation events" which were small but visible on my tape. I now believe there should not have been any... Also the Shuttle was probably too bright. It appears brighter than -2 which is unusual for the Shuttle, especially at 90d angle... "

John Sanford. Starhome. Springville, CA

Below are three frames from the video footage (note the arrows and pointers are added to indicate the position of the debris believed to be falling off Columbia)...

2/7/2003: check out the Animations of possible initial "separation" events of Columbia over California

Report by Liam Kennedy

Note: The above animations were based upon the original images sent to me by John. For the record you can see them here.

How I created the animations

I created the animations within Photoshop / ImageReady. I have taken each frame and overlaid them and shifted them so that the "shuttle" is in approximately the same spot each time. Recognize that in reality the shuttle is moving. Displaying the animation in this way allows you to see the "debris" more easily than from the original images. I have also adjusted the brightness in the images so that the background of each frame is the same shade.

Further emails from John

John sent me the follow note related to the above images.

I made new stills last night from my copy tape and I think they show the events better.

The first 3 show a flash at the start of the event with the material going into the trail.

The second 3 show the bright object separating.

These were made simply by step framing through the tape then shooting a 1/4 sec, @ f/5.6 exposure on 400ISO Kodak B&W film of my old Toshiba 27" lineless TV. The prints from Rite Aid were then scanned onto a Kodak CD and these files treated in PhotoShop for contrast and brightness and the small captions added.

I had to keep the files pretty big for the newspapers that might use (Register and Fresno Bee).

John later sent me the following email related to his direct contact with NASA investigators.

Dear Friends,

Just a quick update from Starhome. After the airing on TV last weekend (Dateline, NBC News, etc.), the local print media have been doing stories, etc.

The original video finally arrived at NASA today (Thursday) after being mailed Monday (priority). Boy are they interested! I got a cal from a Cmdr. Frick in the Astronaut Office, and he said they had 3 image specialists on it trying to do a trajectory to find out where the piece shown in my video landed.

He asked about the camera focal length, and said my timings seemed to fit in perfectly with their timeline. So maybe there will be some mention at the briefing on NASA Channel tomorrow.

Event 1: Brightening of the shuttle followed by view of some "diffuse" material/objects going into the trail behind Columbia.

Event 2: Bright object separating from the Shuttle.

2/8/2003: Powerpoint presentation from NASA on left wing sensor failures.

Report by Liam Kennedy

As you may already know, many OCA Members are working in the space/science industry and some are very closely connected directly or indirectly with people woking in NASA or on the investigations team. Today I received an internal NASA powerpoint presentation (unclassified of course) which shows graphically when/where the sensors started showing abnormal readings (or gave up) on the left wing of the shuttle.

Note: In order to view the presentation you will need to be using Internet Explorer (probably version 6) ... sorry to all of you using Netscape.

Click on the image below to launch a new window containing the full presentation.