Columbia - STS 107
The STS 107 logs, written by Kalpana Chawla's husband, JP Harrison, are available below.
This was received from Kalpana, in a reply to an email from Ian (published below), shortly before Columbia was lost:
Dear Ian and Gang,
Thanks so much for your message. Finally, we have our space legs and we are enjoying the axes transitions, the magnificent
views, and the work.
Best to you all.
(reproduced with permission from JP Harrison)
Hello Kalpana and fellow Space Truckers,
We have been following your progress as closely as possible from our recording studio in Los Angeles.
Being aware of you whizzing around up there has added an extra dimension to the fizz in the air down here; I'll make sure
you get the first copies of the resulting CD.
Continuing success on your mission, with best regards from all of us in Deep Purple and also the Caramba Team,
STS-107 Caramba log 9 - Hail Columbia!
After an extremely successful mission, the crew of "Columbia" readied for their return home on the morning of Saturday,
1 February 2003. I had travelled from Houston to Cocoa Beach the previous afternoon with some of the other families and Astronaut
Office staff via one of the NASA jets. Upon arrival in Florida we checked into our hotel, this time without quite as much
fuss regarding security. I slept relatively early that night anticipating an early departure for Kennedy Space Center the
We left for Kennedy Space Center at about 7:00am on Saturday. During the ride to the Shuttle Landing Facility spirits
were high as we anticipated reuniting with our respective wives or husbands - and the other crew members - all very dear friends.
Arriving at the viewing stands, we each claimed spots offering the best view after which I ran off quickly to quickly get
coffee and a breakfast snack. As for launch two weeks earlier, we had perfect weather for landing.
My attempt to re-enter the area reserved for crew families was challenged because I did not have my ID on me, but
also probably because my long hair was braided and beaded, courtesy of my nieces, in which condition with the addition of
various haircolors to be added after the shuttle landed, I was to meet Kalpana at crew quarters after landing.
Loudspeakers at the viewing area carried live communication traffic between Mission Control and "Columbia". Just
before 9:00am I perked up a little because a comm check call to "Columbia" went unanswered. This in itself is not cause for
concern because as my long experience as a flight instructor proved, there are any number of benign causes for missing a radio
call. Successive calls went unanswered. Again this in itself is not cause for alarm because a general communication radio
system failure could have occurred. At about the two minute mark prior to touchdown I did not hear the expected double sonic
booms as the shuttle flew overhead. It was then brought to my attention that a number of suits with cell phones to their ears
were leaving the adjacent viewing area en masse. I sat on the bench as I realized something was seriously amiss. Once the
shuttle initiates its reentry procedure there is nowhere else in the world for it to go other than the planned touchdown point.
The clock ran down, a "shuttle contingency" was declared and all crew families were taken to crew quarters.
We were met at crew quarters by NASA officials including Sean O'Keefe, Bill Readdy, Bob Cabana, Kent Rominger and
others who laid out the facts before us as best they could. President Bush generously took time to call us. We all decided
to return as quickly as possible to Houston and arrived there later that afternoon.
Since the accident occurred, the crew families and NASA have received countless messages of love and support from
around the world. These are all very much appreciated. It must be pointed out that NASA is not a faceless government bureaucracy
but is staffed by people who want to be part of the space program and love their work. Shock from loss of "Columbia" affected
them as much as it did the immediate crew families and friends. The Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center and the surrounding
community have done everything within their ability to provide support for the crew families: there is nothing more we can
The initial shock has worn off, aided by a constant stream of prepared meals, friends arriving from far-off places,
and ever-present Astronaut Office contacts. Intellectually we all realize what has happened; emotionally none of us can yet
connect the dots. We all take solace in that the crew was doing what they loved with people they loved and respected. When
the end came it was instantaneous.
I wish to extend my hearfelt thanks and that of Kalpana's family to all around the world for their love and support.
Exploration of space will continue because human beings cannot resist looking past the next horizon. The best way for anyone
to honor the "Columbia" crew is to develop as best they can whatever talents God has given them - and remember - persistence
wins out every time.
Myself and Kalpana's family have established the "Montsu" foundation for education and the environment. "Montsu"
is Kalpana's family name. The foundation's first objective is to sponsor the university education of bright young men and
women whose only obstacle is lack of funds - or means to acquire those funds. Sponsorship is open to anyone anywhere in the
world. Before leaving for the mission Kalpana left funds to pay the expenses for a brilliant young man now enrolled in university
in South Africa. The foundation's second objective is to acquire and preserve the natural environment such as the purchase
of land used by migratory birds during their stopovers. Kalpana was an avid bird-watcher and very much enjoyed visiting bird
sanctuaries along the South Texas coast during Spring and Autumn.
Please send any contributions to Montsu, PO Box 58937, Houston, TX 77258, USA.
A great debt of thanks goes to Ian Gillan and Steve Campbell for allowing me to post these STS-107 updates. I hope you
have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.