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Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia: Fifteen years ago, on February 1, 2003, a sonic boom jarred Special Agent Brent Chambers as he was preparing to mow his lawn outside of Dallas on a chilly Saturday morning.

“I knew it was something bad,” said Chambers, now retired. He jumped in his car, turned on the police radio, and learned the news: NASA’s space shuttle Columbia had broken up as it re-entered the atmosphere. The deep rumble, which started just before 8 a.m. Central time, marked the explosive end of the shuttle and the tragic death of all seven astronauts on board.

As the noise faded, debris started raining down into eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

No one knew immediately why Columbia fell. But the nation couldn’t help but think about the 9/11 terror attacks less than 18 months earlier. “It was a time when people were concerned about terrorism, and it couldn’t be ruled out right away,” said Michael Hillman, another FBI Dallas special agent.

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Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia: Fifteen years ago, on February 1, 2003, a sonic boom jarred Special Agent Brent Chambers as he was preparing to mow his lawn outside of Dallas on a chilly Saturday morning.“I knew it was something bad,” said Chambers, now retired. He jumped in his car, turned on the police radio, and learned the news: NASA’s space shuttle Columbia had broken up as it re-entered the atmosphere. The deep rumble, which started just before 8 a.m. Central time, marked the explosive end of the shuttle and the tragic death of all seven astronauts on board. As the noise faded, debris started raining down into eastern Texas and western Louisiana.No one knew immediately why Columbia fell. But the nation couldn’t help but think aboutthe 9/11 terror attacks less than 18 months earlier. “It was a time when people were concerned about terrorism, and it couldn’t be ruled out right away,” said Michael Hillman, another FBI Dallas special agent.