NASA Marks 10th Anniversary Of Tragedy High Over Texas

The seven-member crew of the Columbia was remembered Friday. (NASA/file)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (February 1, 2013)--Ten years ago Friday, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated high over Texas as the seven-member crew returned to Earth after a 16-day mission.

They were just 16 minutes from home when the shuttle broke apart on Feb. 1, 2003.

A few hundred people gathered Friday morning at Florida's Kennedy Space Center to remember the Columbia seven.

NASA officials joined family members, astronauts and schoolchildren for the outdoor ceremony.

The widow of Columbia's commander told the crowd the accident was so unexpected and the shock so intense, that she could not cry at first.

Evelyn Husband Thompson says the tears came "in waves and buckets" in the week, months and years that followed.

She assured everyone, though, that healing is possible.

The shuttle was 40 miles above Texas when super-heated gasses entered one of the shuttle's wings as the Columbia sped earthward at more than 12,000 miles an hour.

The first indication of trouble came shortly before Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle.

The Columbia left a path of debris that stretched over thousands of square miles in more than 30 counties from North Texas to Louisiana.

Fragments are still being recovered.