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February 1, 2003

Space shuttle Columbia explodes upon re-entry

The crew of STS-107After a successful 17-day mission, NASA controllers lost contact with Columbia as it re-entered the atmosphere. Debris from the craft was spread over a wide area of the southern United States. Investigations indicated that tiles on the shuttle designed to protect it from the searing heat of re-entry had been damaged by chunks of foam on takeoff. Seven crewmembers were killed.

Columbia's next flight was to carry Morgan and the rest of the STS-118 crew. Their November flight was now postponed indefinitely.

It would be the second time that Morgan would face the loss of close friends, as well as a mission delay. In order to cope, Morgan focused on work, and happy memories of her friends:

"Maybe I'm in denial, but they are very much alive," she says. "It's not who they were, it's who they are, and it's very much in the present for me."