Among the 80.000 recovered items later found on the ground was this videotape recording made by the astronauts during the start of re-entry. The 13-minute recording shows the flight crew astronauts conducting routine re-entry procedures and joking with each other. None gives any indication of a problem. In this video, the flight-deck crew puts on their gloves and passes the video camera around to record plasma and flames visible outside the windows of the orbiter (a normal occurrence). This recording, which on normal flights would have continued through landing, ends about four minutes before the shuttle began to disintegrate and 11 minutes before Mission Control lost the signal from the orbiter.
I was on the search team that located their mission patch. It was a small blue space shuttle with all their last names embroidered onto it. It somehow survived the catastrophe and was laying in a clearing undamaged. It was the most humbling experience. Almost unreal feeling..
I can’t believe it’s been 16yrs since this shuttle Explosion, I felt so sorry for all of’em, and their families they left behind, They all knew it was gonna be a certain amount of risk, but they had no idea they was gonna lose their life. .
Rest In Peace Columbia crew, wish you could’ve made it home. You are FOREVER in our hearts!