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At that point, Columbia was near Dallas, travelling 18 times the speed of sound and still 200,700 feet (61,170 meters) above the ground.
This image of the STS-107 shuttle Columbia crew in orbit was recovered from wreckage inside an undeveloped film canister.
From left (bottom row): Kalpana Chawla, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon.
After STS-121's safe conclusion, NASA deemed the program ready to move forward and shuttles resumed flying several times a year."We're still going to watch and we're still going to pay attention," STS-121 commander Steve Lindsey said at the time.
"We're never ever going to let our guard down."The shuttle fleet was maintained long enough to complete construction of the International Space Station, with most missions solely focused on finishing the building work; the ISS was also viewed as a safe haven for astronauts to shelter in case of another foam malfunction during launch.
NASA also had more camera views of the shuttle during liftoff to better monitor foam shedding.
Due to more foam loss than expected, the next shuttle flight did not take place until July 2006.
Video from the launch appeared to show the foam striking Columbia's left wing.
Several people within NASA pushed to get pictures of the breached wing in orbit.
However, STS-107 stood apart as it emphasized pure research.
They performed around 80 experiments in life sciences, material sciences, fluid physics and other matters.