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The Space Shuttle Columbia foam strike crisis is in indecent that stranded seven astronauts in space during STS-107 from January 16, 2002 to February 14, 2003. During the crisis the crew relied on the food and water storage that was unusually large due to an Extended Duration Orbiter package, because of this unusually large amount of food and water astronauts on-board were able to stay in orbit until flight day 30 (February 15). After it was decided that an in orbit repair at the time was too risky to be undertaken by the crew, an in orbit rescue was undertaken.
All seven astronauts were rescued by the Space Shuttle Atlantis and returned to earth safely on February 14, 2003 on flight day 29. Columbia was placed in an orbit that allowed it be repaired in orbit at a later date. On September 16, 2005 the Space Shuttle Discovery launched and docked with Columbia via the Shuttle to Shuttle docking module and began on orbit repairs. Once repairs were completed Discovery un-docked and landed at Kennedy Space Center while NASA de-orbited the Columbia using Remote Control Orbiter system landing at Edwards Air Force Base. Following Columbia's return to earth it was placed into an extended inspection and refurbishment before being placed back in to the active rotation
STS-107 was a space shuttle mission by NASA using the Space Shuttle Columbia, launched 16 January 2003. This was a multi-disciplinary micro-gravity and Earth science research mission with a multitude of international scientific investigations conducted continuously during 16 days in orbit.
Following launch on January 16th during a post launch photographic inspection of photos and video taken during the launch it was determined that possible damage was sustained to the thermal protection system components (reinforced carbon-carbon panels and thermal protection tiles) on the leading edge of the left wing of the Shuttle orbiter. Furthermore fallowing a visual inspection undertaken by Columbia commander Rick Husband on January 23 which confirmed that a chuck of foam had indeed struck the left wing leading edge causing a hole 41 by 42.5 centimeters (16 by 16.7 in) in the protective RCC panel. After it was determined that a safe landing could not be done and an on orbit repair was too risky to the crew members a rescue mission would then be needed using the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Following this decision NASA went into emergency operations.
During the second day of NASA being in emergency operations mode it was determined that Space Shuttle Atlantis which was in processing for a March 1 launch on STS-114, could be expedited with no skipped safety checks for a February 10 launch. From January 24th until the February 10th launch, NASA developed a tether system to transfer personnel and equipment from Columbia to Atlantis safely.
Launch of Atlantis
Following processing Atlantis was moved to Launch pad 39A for its February 10th launch.