The space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts are missing and presumed lost.

Search and rescue crews have been dispatched to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. NBC News has reported a large explosion over Dallas, Texas and eyewitnesses near Dallas report hearing loud explosions at the time Columbia was scheduled to pass overhead.

Video of Columbia’s descent over Texas shows the vehicle breaking up upon reentry.

Law enforcement authorities report numerous pieces of debris landing in Nacogdoches, Texas. –

My friends never call me at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I wanted to sleep in and didn’t take the first call but when the second one came in I decided to check the news. I turned on the television, saw re-entry video, and instantly knew. The reporter was saying the shuttle was missing but the streaking debris pretty much said it all.

My family has roots at NASA’s Johnson Space Center that go back to its founding. My grandparents worked with, and knew, all the of great astronauts and directors in the early days. I remember my grandfather taking me to NASA and introducing me to a lot of them. Other family members have worked in, and around, JSC for almost two decades. I started out as a mailroom clerk for a contractor after high-school, moved on to the shuttle training program as a field engineer, served as the webmaster for the shuttle program office, and later returned as a consultant for a brief period about a year ago.

I was in high school when we lost the Challenger and crew. I went to school with their kids. I know what that accident did to them and how it impacted the community in which they lived. It seemed like the whole year was filled with memorials and speeches. It took a few years for something like normalcy to return to JSC.

Investigations will continue for years but all that matters now is that seven heroes lost their lives in pursuit of mankind’s most dangerous and rewarding endeavor.

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