: Communications and radar contact with STS-107/Columbia were lost during reentry this morning. Video taken of the skies over the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area show the orbiter breaking apart, reminiscent of what was seen during the Mir Space Station's deorbit. Search and rescue operations have been started.
If you reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and come upon debris you should report the find to local law enforcement agencies. Do not approach the debris as it may contain hazardous materials.
The same rules that applied to wreckage from the Space Shuttle Challenger now apply to Columbia.
: We have now seen at least one auction started on eBay for debris from shuttle Columbia. Thankfully, the item was pulled almost as soon as it was listed. It should go without saying, but anything found from this morning's tragedy should be turned over to the local authorities.
Collectors, please join us in a moratorium on the sale of autographs from the astronauts and of course, a boycott of fragments that may make it to sites like eBay. If you do locate offers for these, please contact collectSPACE.
: "All debris is United States Government property and is critical to the investigation of the shuttle accident. Any and all debris from the accident is to be left alone and reported to Government authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
: Authorities in Texas have begun an investigation into the sale of debris from Columbia, according to Agence France-Presse. "We have a zero tolerance policy for this sort of thing," United States Attorney Michael Shelby said.
: eBay has created a Community Tribute to the Astronauts, a forum for eBay members to share their thoughts about today's tragedy. Earlier today, the auction site repeated NASA's warnings about debris and noted the following: "Of course, sale or listing of such debris is strictly prohibited."
: We do not have much to say about this other than it gave us another reason to pause; we would usually look at a patch like this one as a souvenir or collectible. Yet here, a charred patch is evidence for an investigation into a tragedy. There were over 1,000 of these embroidered STS-107 insignias aboard Columbia.
: Like many, we have been sickened to watch opportunists race to eBay with every patch, pin, and tee shirt related to Columbia. It's not that we object to their sale, it's the tremendous mark-up being added to take advantage of a nation in mourning. This is not supply and demand: this is greed.
Even more horrifying though, are those who are stealing debris. The Daily Sentinel, reporting out of Nacogdoches, Texas (where a majority of the debris fell) writes of a woman who stopped her car aside a piece of debris that was being guarded by five citizens until the authorities could arrive.
Wearing a plastic bag over her head, she jumped out of her car and grabbed the piece. "What are you doing?" asked one of the guards. "None of your business," she replied, and drove away.
Fortunately, a photo was taken of her license plate and the police were able to identify who it was and where she lived. Unfortunately, we cannot expect every theft to be captured on film.
U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby stated that his office will take "all necessary steps to ensure that the monumental investigative and recovery efforts following the tragic accident are not impaired by the actions of those who seek to obtain pieces of debris."
It is a federal offense to "knowingly and without authority remove, conceal or withhold a part of the civil aircraft involved in an accident or property on the aircraft at the time of the accident." A conviction is punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
: KHOU-TV Channel 11 and the Houston Chronicle have established a Columbia Scholarship Fund to help pay for the education of the children of the STS-107 crew. Five of the seven people killed on Saturday had children. Checks made out to "Columbia Scholarship Fund" can be mailed to: P.O. Box 40333, Houston, TX 77240-0333.
: As of 4:30 p.m. ET, nearly 900 items have been listed on eBay with "STS-107" in their title. Most auctions are for patches, launch programs, decals, and shirts. Newspapers, image CDs, and photos can also be found.
According the Associated Press, at 9:40 a.m. Saturday, there were already 41 items for sale related to the space shuttle Columbia. By 5:30 p.m., there were 731.
As previously noted, eBay has banned the sale of debris but has left their auctions open to mass-produced items.
: President George Bush will join NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe Tuesday in paying tribute to the crew of the space shuttle Columbia during a memorial service at Johnson Space Center in Texas. Scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. ET, this will be a private event for family members, friends, and invited guests, along with NASA employees and its contractors. The memorial service will be televised live on NASA TV.
: As has been well publicized, contact with space shuttle debris should be avoided and reported to authorities. But what should you do if you are exposed?
According to NASA, take a shower with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Remove your clothing carefully; avoid skin contact with all contaminated areas. Store clothing in plastic bags for later analysis. If your physician has questions, have him/her contact the NASA Emergency Action Center at 281/483-3388.
In an interview with collectSPACE, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said that the auction site has no plans for a moratorium on STS-107 memorabilia as had been done for World Trade Center and Pentagon related collectibles after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
eBay is keeping a close watch to prevent sale of any items directly related to the loss of Columbia, including debris. When asked about sellers inflating their opening bids to multiples above retail values, Pursglove said it would be left to bidders to decide which direction those auctions would take.
: Despite what some eBay auction descriptions might have you believe, there will be plenty of STS-107 patches for anyone who desires to own one or more. Speaking with AB Emblem, the company that produces the embroidered insignia for NASA, they confirm that more patches are in production and will be sent to distributors over the next three weeks. The 'new' patches will be identical in every way to those made before the mission launched. A memorial design is also being considered.
: Today at 1:00 p.m. ET, President Bush will join NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe for a memorial service at Johnson Space Center. On Thursday, O'Keefe will be joined by Vice President Cheney at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Both services are private and will be aired live on NASA TV.
At the main gate to the Johnson Space Center, hundreds of people have visited a makeshift shrine, leaving behind flowers, lit candles, signs and American and Israeli flags, stuffed animals and balloons. At Kennedy Space Center, hundreds have gathered at the Space Mirror Memorial, a black granite wall inscribed with the names of astronauts killed in the line of duty.
: Our first update on this topic ("Greed") came as a result of the price-gouging on eBay and the looting of debris in Texas. Two days later, the situation is not resolved, but it is getting better.
Though eBay still has over 6,000 auctions related to the Columbia, retailers are speaking out and are doing what they can to control the supply. We know of several who have cancelled orders as a result of their items on eBay.
As for those who are taking debris home, Texas officials are preparing to make house calls. If the fear from toxic contamination isn't enough to deter looters, then the stiff penalties they can receive — a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine, should drive home the severity of this crime.
: As pictured at left, AB Emblem has begun producing a special commemorative patch to honor the crew of STS-107. Designed by Marc Jacobs, who has made several of the astronauts' personal patches, proceeds from its sale will go to the Columbia Scholarship Fund.
: While the U.S. government provides benefits to the children of astronauts, the money is only a fraction of what their parents may have earned had they survived.
The Columbia Scholarship Fund and the Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund are soliciting donations to provide for the children of the crew of STS-107. Checks to The Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund can be sent to P.O. Box 34600, Washington, D.C. 20043-4600.
For the sale of all STS-107 items from buySPACE, we'll donate a portion to the fund. We encourage you to make your own contribution.
: Prosecutors announced today the arrests and indictments of two Texas residents for the alleged theft of space shuttle Columbia debris. If convicted, the two face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Also begun today, a two-day prosecution moratorium for "anyone who voluntarily delivers to investigating authorities any piece or pieces of the shuttle's wreckage, large or small, and provides information concerning when and where it was found."
: The National Space Society, a non-profit space advocacy organization founded by Wernher von Braun, has begun a petition to respond to the critics who are calling for an end to human space exploration. Show public support remains strong.
: If you thought the price gouging for patches, pins, and launch programs was bad, wait until you see the tasteless, knock-off memorial tributes (if you can call them that) now filling the pages of eBay. As if commemorative pencils with the names of 'The Columbia Crew' emblazoned on the side were not bad enough, is there anyone who doesn't find the very idea of STS-107 launch photos superimposed with a picture of the bidder's child disgusting?
If eBay's customers, a.k.a. the sellers, aren't going to exhibit a shread of decorum in the shadow of a national tragedy, then the auction site's management should. Despite complaints from retailers including AB Emblem, eBay continues to insist that bidders control the market. Last we looked, eBay is not a free venue. They profit from every listing, regardless if it ultimately leads to a sale. Here's an idea
: Instead of hosting a forum for its users to eulogize the crew, eBay could better honor their memory by taking a firm stand against their exploitation.
: The two-day prosecution moratorium on the possession of shuttle Columbia debris has expired. As of this morning, reports were that the amnesty period successfully returned 75 pieces to the open investigation into what caused the accident.
collectSPACE has been in contact with law enforcement officials who have requested our assistance in locating and reporting sales of any debris. If you're offered debris from Columbia, or know of an attempt being made to sell or trade material, you need to report it directly to NASA.
: It was this time seven days ago when our world changed. Space collecting took a back seat to reporting: while we couldn't compete with national news desks, nor would we try to, we could focus on the events that directly related to our community, including NASA's alerts about debris. We also looked at how the collectors market responded.
This morning, we restored some of our regular features removed in the immediate wake of the tragedy; more will return over the next few days. Our coverage of space memorabilia will also resume, though we will continue to post updates on the loss of Columbia as more is learned.
: Though we may never know an exact count of how many hoarded pieces of debris were returned because of the amnesty deadline (investigators were concerned with the wreckage, not the reason for its surrender), officials have declared that their prosecution moratorium was an enormous success.
: Astronaut Robert Cabana, addressing the memorial service at National Cathedral last week, closed his tribute "with a bible verse that Rick Husband signed on each of his pictures." A reader, who received just such a signed portrait from Husband, has shared a scan of the inscription. Others have posted a cover and two portraits autographed by the crew.
: The news of a law enforcement official charged with looting debris should come as a surprise to some, but it's happened before. It was not too long ago that a Challenger recovery team member plead guilty to the theft of a tile from the fallen orbiter. A lesson should be learned from these cases. It doesn't matter who you are, if you steal debris, you will be found and prosecuted.
Space Coast Cover Service proprieter Ken Havekotte was recently profiled by Florida Today about his passion for space memorabilia. As part of the article he was asked why he collects space. "I'm not an astronaut, I'm not an engineer, I'm not a scientist," Havekotte told the newspaper. "I get close to it this way."
: We earlier reported that Scott Carpenter's book signing appearances in Colorado and Washington were postponed. Several events have now been rescheduled as well as new locations added as he continues to promote his and his daughter's book, For Spacious Skies. More signings are to be set this week.
: This weekend, we are off to the American International Toy Fair -- the professional gathering in New York of toy companies, retailers and the media. To mark the occassion and the release of their new AstroSquad astronaut action figures, we have partnered with Action Products International to host their first Space Voyagers Survey. Participate and not only may you influence future products, but you'll be entered to win some of the latest Space Voyagers toys!
: Ohio gave us an Apollo astronaut -- now Florida may put a space shuttle on the back of its state quarter. Two of five candidate designs include the orbiter, one depicted launching and the other landing. Voting is now open for three weeks.
: Our two day tour of the American International Toy Fair was cut short due to the snow, but during our time in New York we saw plenty of must-have toys for the space collector! Favorites Space Voyagers and Code 3 Collectibles were exhibiting but the highlight was a new LEGO Discovery space history line.
: After the first of three weeks of voting, Florida's quarter designGateway to Discovery has commanded nearly 25,000 more votes than the next runner-up Everglades.Gateway is one of two candidates that feature the shuttle. The other, America's Spaceport, is currently ranked fourth.
: Novaspace Galleries is now accepting mailed-in memorabilia for Gemini and Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan to autograph. The last man on the Moon, Cernan will be arriving in late March when he will also deliver more pieces for Astro Auction, including consignments from Apollo 16 moonwalker Charles Duke.
: Our May 24 auction to benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation features astronaut consigned artifacts as well as experiences accompanied by the astronauts themselves. We have a small preview now but look for the full auction catalog to debut April 24.
: As scheduled, Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter arrived today at the Houston offices of Countdown Creations to sign copies of For Spacious Skies. This was our last planned signing with Carpenter, so if you have been waiting to order a copy, do so now.
: Having been the first to bring the Space Road Show to The Space Store, we're pleased that Aurora Galleries is continuing the space appraisal clinic on Thursday and Friday. In addition to evaluations, Aurora will accept consignments for their next auction.
: After more than 30 years, the Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Having explored Jupiter and traveled twice as far as the most distant planet in our solar system, Pioneer 10 is coasting silently into interstellar space, heading for the red star Aldebaran, 68 light years away. The U.S. Postal Service pictured Pioneer 10 on a stamp twice -- first in 1974, and then again in 1999.
: The Houston Astros Major League Baseball team will honor Columbia's crew by wearing their mission insignia on their uniform sleeve throughout the 2003 season. The team will also hold an Opening Day ceremony in tribute to the crew on April 1.