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FREESTAR Microgravity Research Mission
Post-Mission Summary

On January 16, 2003 at 1539 GMT Columbia and its seven-member crew lifted off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on a 16-day mission devoted to scientific research. Good weather over Florida and Spain allowed an on time launch with no weather issues.

End of Mission Weather:

During the early pre-dawn hours of February 1, sea fog along the Florida east coast extended to Cape Canaveral. Between 08Z and 09Z, cloud ceilings at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) were briefly overcast at 300 feet with a visibility of 2 miles. By 10Z, SLF conditions had improved to scattered clouds at 700 feet with visibility 7 miles. Radiation fog began forming shortly thereafter and by 12Z visibility had lowered to 3 miles with sector visibility 1 1/2 miles to the east. By deorbit decision time (1300Z) for the first KSC landing opportunity, conditions at the SLF conditions had improved to visibility 4 miles with scattered clouds at 29,000 ft. An astronaut performing weather reconnaissance in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) reported acceptable landing weather conditions on the south approach (RWY 33) to the SLF. An area of stratus clouds over north and west Florida was moving eastward toward the SLF. Forecasters at the Spaceflight Meteorology Group were predicting acceptable landing weather expecting improving visibility and stratus clouds to begin eroding due to the effects of surface heating and turbulent mixing of dry air from strong winds aloft. The NASA Flight Director was informed that if erosion did not occur, cloud ceiling violations would impact the SLF for the 1st opportunity. At approximately 1300 GMT, the decision was made to deorbit for the first opportunity.

At approximately 1400 GMT, Mission Control in Houston lost all communication and tracking with Columbia, as the space shuttle broke apart over Texas during reentry into the earth's atmosphere. This disaster resulted in the tragic deaths of all seven astronauts aboard Columbia. SMG Lead Meteorologist was G. Wayne Baggett working his 13th mission as Lead. Karl Silverman was the Assistant Lead and TAL Forecaster. Tim Oram managed meteorological data systems as the Lead Techniques Development Meteorologist

SMG is supporting several NASA post-accident investigation teams by providing meteorological data and expertise. Immediately after the Columbia disaster, SMG requested that NWS forecast offices archive upper air and radar data with the help of NWS Southern Region HQ. SMG also supplied the Mission Control Center with radar-based debris path identification to assist in deploying the first recovery teams. SMG meteorologists Tim Garner and Richard Lafosse traveled to the NWS Radar Operations Center (ROC) in Norman, Oklahoma to obtain high resolution archived data from radar sites along the Columbia reentry track and to meet with ROC and NSSL radar experts to assist in analysis of the data. SMG presented this analysis to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in March,2003. NASA also requested atmospheric data as high as 400,000 feet along the reentry trajectory. Tim Oram and Tim Garner worked closely with other NASA centers and with NWS / NCEP to collect and analyze this data, and create customized products for NASA engineers.

Submitted by:
G. Wayne Baggett
STS 107 Lead Meteorologist

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Page last modified: 2 April, 2003