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NASA's Space Shuttle Program: Issues for Congress Related to The Columbia Tragedy and "Return to Flight"

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On February 1, 2003, NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while returning to Earth from a 16-day science mission in orbit. All seven astronauts -- six Americans and one Israeli -- were killed. An investigation board issued its report on the accident on August 26, 2003. A synopsis is provided in CRS Report RS21606. This report summarizes the Columbia tragedy and the investigation board's report, and discusses issues for Congress including the "Return to Flight" (RTF) effort, and the future of the shuttle. NASA currently hopes RTF will occur during a July 13-31, 2005 launch window. More information on the space shuttle is available in CRS Issue Brief IB93062. This report is updated regularly.