Shuttle commander's widow reflects on tragedy



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Posted on February 1, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 8:16 PM

No one can forget the chilling images of the space shuttle Columbia breaking up over the skies of Texas 10 years ago Feb. 1.

During liftoff, a piece of foam from the shuttle's orange fuel tank hit the orbiter's left wing puncturing it.  That hole allowed hot gases to enter the wing, weakening the shuttle's structure. The orbiter tore apart during re-entry.

Astronaut Tim Kopra watched Columbia as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. 

"Unfortunately, our fears were confirmed within minutes. We started to get phone calls about what had happened,” he said.

Evelyn Husband-Thompson, the widow of shuttle commander Rick Husband, also awaited Columbia's return to Earth anticipating a normal landing.

"I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, ‘Is that it? Is that the end of Rick's life?’" she said.

For Evelyn, time has helped heal some of the pain.

"It's a lifelong process. I don't think that pain ever completely goes away," she said.

The shuttle program resumed two-and-a-half years later and ended in 2011. 

Kopra says the astronauts died heroes. 

"They gave their lives for their country, and there are actually multiple countries that were represented, and their sacrifice was not in vain,” he said.

While the shuttle program may be gone, the memories of the Columbia crew, as well as Challenger and Apollo 1, will never fade.