Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew


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Voted the Best Space Book of 2018 by the Space Hipsters

The dramatic inside story of the epic search and recovery operation after the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

On February 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated on reentry before the nation’s eyes, and all seven astronauts aboard were lost. Author Mike Leinbach, Launch Director of the space shuttle program at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center was a key leader in the search and recovery effort as NASA, FEMA, the FBI, the US Forest Service, and dozens more federal, state, and local agencies combed an area of rural east Texas the size of Rhode Island for every piece of the shuttle and her crew they could find. Assisted by hundreds of volunteers, it would become the largest ground search operation in US history. This comprehensive account is told in four parts:

  • Parallel Confusion
  • Courage, Compassion, and Commitment
  • Picking Up the Pieces
  • A Bittersweet Victory
For the first time, here is the definitive inside story of the Columbia disaster and recovery and the inspiring message it ultimately holds. In the aftermath of tragedy, people and communities came together to help bring home the remains of the crew and nearly 40 percent of shuttle, an effort that was instrumental in piecing together what happened so the shuttle program could return to flight and complete the International Space Station. Bringing Columbia Home shares the deeply personal stories that emerged as NASA employees looked for lost colleagues and searchers overcame immense physical, logistical, and emotional challenges and worked together to accomplish the impossible.

Featuring a foreword and epilogue by astronauts Robert Crippen and Eileen Collins, and dedicated to the astronauts and recovery search persons who lost their lives, this is an incredible, compelling narrative about the best of humanity in the darkest of times and about how a failure at the pinnacle of human achievement became a story of cooperation and hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948924610
Publisher: Arcade
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 151,684
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Michael D. Leinbach was the last launch director in the space shuttle program at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, responsible for overall shuttle launch countdown activities until the end of the program in 2011. In November 2004, Leinbach was awarded the prestigious 2004 Presidential Rank Award. He lives in Scottsmoor, Florida.

Jonathan H. Ward works to bring the thrill of the space program to life for the general public as a Solar System Ambassador for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and as a frequent speaker on space exploration topics to interest groups and at regional conferences. He is the author of two previous books on space exploration. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Captain Robert L. Crippen, USN, Retired (foreword) was Columbia’s first pilot. He received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1960. He has received numerous special honors, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, three Distinguished Service Medals, the US Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the FAA’s Award for Distinguished Service, the Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Harmon Trophy, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the American Aeronautical Society Flight Achievement Award, the National Geographic Society’s Gardiner Greene Hubbard Medal, the Aviation Hall of Fame 1981 Al J. Engel Award, American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots Ivan C. Kincheloe Award, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He lives in Orlando, Florida.

Colonel Eileen Collins, USAF, Retired (epilogue) became NASA’s first female shuttle commander on a 1999 mission in the Columbia. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in operations research from Stanford University, and a master’s degree in space systems management from Webster University. She is from Elmira, New York.

Table of Contents

Foreword Robert Crippen ix

Preface to the Paperback Edition xiii

Part I Parallel Confusion

Chapter 1 Silence and Shock 3

Chapter 2 Good Things Come to People Who Wait 7

Chapter 3 The Foam Strike 25

Chapter 4 Landing Day 36

Part II Courage, Compassion, and Commitment

Chapter 5 Recovery Day 1 51

Chapter 6 Assessing the Situation 88

Chapter 7 Searching for the Crew 107

Part III Picking Up the Pieces

Chapter 8 Columbia Is Going Home in a Coffin 139

Chapter 9 Walkers, Divers, and Spotters 167

Chapter 10 Their Mission Became Our Mission 191

Chapter 11 Reconstructing Columbia 206

Part IV A Bittersweet Victory

Chapter 12 Healing and Closure 237

Chapter 13 Preserving and Learning from Columbia 252

Chapter 14 The Beginning of the End 264

Chapter 15 Celebrating 25,000 Heroes 280

Epilogue Eileen Collins 291

Authors' Notes and Acknowledgments 297

Interviewees 301

Acronyms and Technical Terms 309

Notes 317

Index 337

About the Authors 355

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Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book detailing the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the workdone by 10's of thousands to recover the remains of the shuttle and astronauts, highlighting the operations and organizations of every aspect of the largest SAR in US history.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous 6 months ago
Appreciated the inside factual look at the Columbia accident and subsequent influence on our country. Thanks for the inside, total look at what happened. I hope we will continue to learn from this tragedy.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Excellent book. Very detailed.
MJLollar More than 1 year ago
Living in Dallas Texas, I literally heard Columbia break apart. More like felt it since it sounded like a big branch hit the roof of the house. When I discovered what actually happened, I was chilled to the bone. I mention this because at the heart of “Bringing Columbia Home” is the personal story of how this tragedy personally touched the lives of thousands of people when it happened and for months (and years) afterward. The tale of this massive search and recovery effort is thrilling, moving and very sobering all at the same time. Deftly recounted by the authors and written with deep respect and love, it is ultimately a tale of the deep good that rises in people when the need comes and how the sum of us can do much more than the individual people. Highly recommended whether you have an interest in space travel or not, it is a human story that is an inspiration for the ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago