Remembering Columbia at Florida Tech

One of the reasons that I decided to attend Florida Tech was the outstanding aerospace engineering opportunities. Florida Tech has been heavily influenced by the Space Coast and the history of the space program. The university has found several ways of incorporating them into its own programs, including ways of honoring those lost in the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Photo Taken By Kyle Levin
Photo Taken By Kyle Levin

Florida Tech offers students a variety of opportunities to explore the ever-expanding field of aerospace engineering. The student rocket research society hosts trips to Cape Canaveral to watch rocket launches. I have been privileged enough to see such launches on multiple occasions. It’s a rare and exciting experience to sit along the waterway.

It all starts by trying to squeeze into the tight row of cars that line the cruise terminals. Once I find my spot, I’m able to look around and see the families lining up around me. If I’m lucky, someone nearby will have a radio tuned to a station covering the launch. Sometimes, I’m disappointed with a scrubbed rocket launch. The other times that I do get to experience the bright flash of light from engine ignition, the delayed low rumble and the rockets arching its way through the sky leaving behind a streak of light, are the times that make me feel like I’m in an inspirational movie.

Once the rocket is out of sight and the launch path is no longer visible above you, it’s easy to forget about the mission that is happening outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Although the missions and re-entries are not my first thought when it comes to rockets, these times are not to be taken as easy or light-hearted. On more than one occasion, the missions and re-entries are what make a rocket famous when overcoming adversity. Many missions don’t always overcome the issues that they are presented with. Missions can be lost and sometimes they result in casualties, such is the case of the Columbia shuttle.

February 1, 2016 was the 13th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. The disaster occurred when the vehicle burned up upon re-entry, resulting in a loss of seven astronauts. The shuttle incident was deemed a result of a structural failure. Space shuttles were specifically designed to be prepared for the intense atmospheric conditions the vehicle underwent during the launch and re-entry cycles.  The shuttle was equipped with a variety of temperature gauges to ensure that the temperatures encountered during the extreme conditions could be monitored. Upon launch of the Columbia, it is believed that a piece of foam from the external fuel tank fell off, chipping away a chunk of the left wing. The weakness in the wing of the shuttle resulted in a weakened frame. The atmospheric gases that surrounded the shuttle upon re-entry then leaked into the shuttle resulting in the loss of the shuttle and the seven brave and honored Americans.

Columbia Village Housing Area
Columbia Village housing

Being a part of the space coast community, Florida Tech honors the men and women lost in this tragic event. One of largest contributions to the memory of the shuttle is Columbia Village, a housing area for freshman. The area is made up of seven residence halls that are named after each of the astronauts lost in the disaster. The housing area thrives with students studying at the university that is known for being “high tech with a human touch.” The shuttle Columbia and its memory is just one demonstration of how science is a long time effort to perfecting and adjusting the balance of human life and technology. To me, it is this sacrifice that these astronauts made in their dedication to expanding science that truly represents their recognition from the university.

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