Chapter One: Re-Entry
Looks like a blast furnace.
-- Shuttle commander Rick Husband, midway through re-entry
Plunging back to Earth after a 16-day science mission, the shuttle Columbia streaked through orbital darkness at 5 miles per second, fast enough to fly from Chicago to New York in two and a half minutes and to circle the entire planet in an hour and a half. For Columbia's seven-member crew, the only hint of the shuttle's enormous velocity was the smooth clockwork passage of entire continents far below.
Commander Rick Husband knew the slow-motion view was misleading, a trick of perspective and the lack of...