Space collectors honour the brave astronauts who never returned



Debris from the space shuttle STS-107 Columbia disaster has been found in a lake in Texas, providing a reminder to collectors of the impact this event had on the world.

The space shuttle disintegrated on return to the Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, killing all seven members on board.

Now a four-foot wide sphere, one of 16 tanks employed as part of the shuttle's electrical distribution system, has been found after drought conditions revealed its location.

It will be returned to the Kennedy Space Center, where debris from the disaster is being stored.

Just 40% of the shuttle has so far been recovered, from across Texas, Arizona and California.

It's a niche market, but there is a sizable community of space disaster collectors, looking for items to remember the ill-fated Columbia and 1986 Challenger missions by.

NASA's determination that debris is government property ensures items available to collectors are limited to related memorabilia such as mission patches, pins and autographs that were never taken on the mission.

A Columbia STS-107 card, signed by Indian-born female astronaut Kalpana Chawla, sold for $86 in May 2003 at a Heritage auction.

Just days after the Columbia disaster, eBay removed two auctions of the shuttle's debris from its site.

They had been priced at $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.

The autograph of STS-107 Columbia's Kalpana Chawla

Astronauts are well aware of the dangers they face.

Space-flown autographed postal covers signed by all three Apollo 11 astronauts were used as insurance for their families in case the first moonwalkers did not return.

One such example sold at a Heritage auction for $26,290 in November 2010.

A space flown tile from the first shuttle mission, Columbia STS-1 in 1981, sold for $850 at Heritage in June 2011.


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