From: Kim Anderson
Subject: Tragic Loss
I wanted to give you an idea of how things appeared to me, here at KSC...
This morning was great. The perfect day for a landing. Not a cloud in the
sky, a barely detectable breeze, and the perfect temperature. I made
arrangements to drop Jacob off with Carol early so I could be a part of a
small group that was allowed to the actual shuttle landing facility (SLF).
We left our hangar immediately following de-orbit burn (90 minutes before
Its about a 15 minute trip to the SLF. There were 20 of us on the bus, all of
us toting our cameras and smiles as this mission has been delayed for nearly
three years. The smiles were abundant knowing that everyone one of us on
the bus was looking forward to the return of many successful science
Once we arrived at the SLF we found ourselves amongst a relatively small but
elite group of people that were
allowed at the SLF to wait for
arrived 45 minutes before landing (R-45). (R = recovery and a - sign means
"before" and a + sign means "after" in that R-45 minutes would be 45 minutes
before landing, R+45 minutes would be 45 minutes after landing).
Roy Bridges was there, Sean O'Keefe (in his bright pink STS-107 shirt), at
least three "blue suits" (astronauts) and all of the crew's family members.
We all took pictures galore and relished the moment that we would see the
shuttle, the crew, and our science again.
At R-5 minutes, I continued with my narrative to a few people that were with
me that have never been to the SLF. I explained to them about the double
sonic booms, where the shuttle would first be spotted, where the parachute
would be released, and how the shuttle would stop directly in front of us.
We called Ken (who is currently in CA at Dryden in case the shuttle lands
there - they needed someone to handle the KSC managed payloads) so that he
would know that the shuttle did go through de-orbit burn and it was on its
way to KSC. Other members of his payload team got on the phone with him so
they could congratulate him on his successful payloads.
At R-3 I told them to listen for the booms. At R-2.5 I could not figure
where the booms had gone. The people asked me if it was possible the wind
could carry the sound away from us. I told them this could not happen.
That's when all of us realized that there was a cloud layer that had
suddenly descended upon the SLF, low rippling clouds. The temperature had
also seemed to drop 10 degrees. The wind had picked up too.
At R-2 Mission Control announced for the second time that they had lost
At R-1 Mission Control made the same announcement and added that the Merritt
Island tracking was not tracking the shuttle. The entire crowd silenced.
All stared towards the sky searching for the shuttle.
At R-30 seconds I asked one of our NASA guys where the shuttle was. He
stared at me. He said he just didn't know. At R-10 seconds he scared me
with his look. He told me something had gone very wrong. Mission Control
At R+30 seconds Mission Control announced they had begun their contingency
The crew's families began to huddle together.
AT R+4 minute's security escorted us back to our buses without saying a
word. I called Ken again and told him that they had lost the shuttle, that
it didn't come home. He asked me if I was serious. I began to cry. I told
him it wasn't here, it was lost, but no one knew where yet and then I hung
up. As our bus left the parking lot you could see all the members of the
crew's families hugging. That was the saddest sight of all.
As we drove back to our hangar a security truck pulled us over to ask us if
we had any family aboard. We answered no and that's when we knew something
really bad had happened.
One member of our team got the call from
eyes cast down, and told us all that "she" had been seen breaking up over
When we arrived at the hangar we were told two things. One, do not talk to
the press and two, do not touch any lab, hardware, or paper work.
Everything is to be locked down.
Once inside the hangar it seemed that everyone was crying and making phone
calls. My first job was to secure all of my payload labs and so I went with
one other girl from the hangar to all of our flight labs and began the lock
We attended two meetings to discuss what to do now. After getting our
direction, we were allowed to go home.
Two things intensified this tragedy for us. The first one is that both of
us are so intimately involved with these payloads. Three years of very hard
work for Ken on his Biotube/MFA payload along with following it every day
for 16 days with the crew's participation and hours of video downlinks. The
second thing, for me, was being at the SLF when this happened. It was
exactly like watching a movie. The whole tragedy seemed surreal. For all
of you this experience is a bit intensified in that you know us, you know a
lot about our payloads (we talk about them all the time), and most of you
have STS-107 souvenirs from us.
Ken will be coming home from DFRC tomorrow. His plane is out of Tampa. Ken
dropped Madyson off in Tampa last Wednesday so his parents could take care
of Madyson for us while we worked 12 hours +/day in the final days of the
mission, and during landing. Jacob has been here with me but mostly with
his babysitter Carol.
We are still in shock.
Prayers for the crew's family members are abundant
and much needed.