Vol 8, No 32
February 1, 2003
Space Shuttle Columbia Explodes over Texas
Huge Debris Field
At 7:59 Texas time, on a Saturday morning, Texans from Dallas to Austin were awaken by a loud boom, much like the banging of standing freight cars as the slack is taken up by the engine.
Radio stations interrupted regular programming to report that NASA had lost communications with the Space Shuttle Columbia. People on the ground waited anxiously for word that the space shuttle was just fine. But it wasn't. Within minutes, the whole world learned that the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
For the next hour and a half, debris rained down from the Panhandle to Louisiana. Interstate message boards flashed a number to call to report any debris which might be found. People all over Texas were on the lookout for anything that might have fallen from space. NASA announced that heavy fines would be levied against anyone caught with a "Columbia souvenir", but the fines weren't necessary. Everyone in Texas wanted to know just as much as NASA, what went wrong with the shuttle.
A somberness loomed over the state as though the President had died. Over the next few weeks, government and volunteer teams located debris. Oddly, one of the biological experiments on board was located and recovered, still in tact. But due to the possibility of injure or exposure to contaminants, special crews were dispatched to collect each and every piece of shuttle debris.
Nacogdoches, which had sustained the most damage from falling debris, became ground zero for news crews and search teams. Within weeks the world learned that a piece of heavy foam from the booster rocket broke off upon launch knocking a heat shield tile off the forward edge of the left wing. Without the heat shield, the wing overheated upon re-entry, and eventually decentegrated.
This was the second loss of a space shuttle for NASA. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff from Kennedy Center, killing all aboard, including elementary school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, America's first citizen astronaut.
Menger Hotel opens across from the Alamo
SAN ANTONIO (1859)
On this date in 1859, the Menger Hotel opens 100 yards from the Alamo in San Antonio. Famous guests over the years include Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Mae West, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant,
Legislature approves founding of Baylor University
On this date in 1845, Governor Anson Jones signed the bill founding Baylor University, Texas' first University. The first classes were held at Independence in 1846. In 1886, following mergers and other changes, the University moved to it's present location in Waco.
Judge R.E.B Baylor, one of the founders, never thought himself deserving of such as honor as having the University named after him.
Today, Baylor University is one of the premier universities in the nation.
State Capitol begins construction in Austin
On this date in 1882, construction began on the State Capitol building in Austin. It would be built almost entirely of native Pink Granite.
Texas Secedes from the Union
On this date in 1861, after an election that saw 3 out of 4 Texas voters approve, Texas officially seceded from the Union.
Governor Sam Houston, refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy was forced to resign, and a new government was put in place by the Secession Convention.
A month later, Texas officially joined the Confederacy.