Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster as seen through AH-64 Apache camera

OTD in 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while entering higher atmosphere. Attack chopper camera filmed it.

On Feb. 1, 2003, just before 9AM EST, abnormal readings showed up at Mission Control as the Space Shuttle Columbia, was on its long approach procedure to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in Florida, at the end of mission STS-107.

At the very same time two RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) pilots were training on an AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter out of Fort Hood, Texas, at about 100 feet above ground when they witnessed and recorded with the attack chopper’s onboard camera the dramatic footage of the Space Shuttle  disintegrating on its way back to the KSC.

They filmed the re-entry of Columbia and that footage would be used as evidence in the subsequent accident investigation.

One of our readers has highlighted something interesting in the clip we embedded below: “In the last few seconds of video, the three glowing objects going behind the grove of trees are the three main engines of the shuttle flying in formation. Since the engines are the heaviest and most solid individual objects on an aircraft/spacecraft, they typically fly the farthest when an aircraft breaks up in flight.”

The seven-member crew, Rick Husband, commander; Michael Anderson, payload commander; David Brown, mission specialist; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Laurel Clark, mission specialist; William McCool, pilot; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist from the Israeli Space Agency, were killed in the incident.

H/T Chris Venticinque for sending this over.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.