TYLER, Texas (AP) -- A cardiologist who went into his backyard with cameras and binoculars to watch the space shuttle Columbia descend over Texas ended up capturing it on film as it broke into pieces.
His love of space travel and photography brought him to his backyard with a still camera, video camera and binoculars. Lieberman had been tracking the shuttle on NASA's Web site and was excited that the landing route was supposed to go over Tyler.
He noticed that the space shuttle had unusual parallel contrails, but thought that perhaps landings look different in the daylight and didn't immediately realize anything was wrong.
"On the videotape you could hear my wife say, 'Is it supposed to split up like that?'," he said.
Lieberman said he realized the shuttle had a problem when he didn't hear a sonic boom.
"The sonic boom is two discreet thumps - boom boom - that's normal. What happened here was a loud roaring explosion like a cannon going off. It shook the house and was much louder than normal. It was a very loud coarse noise.
"That was followed by a crinkling sound, a burning noise - like when your heater's on in the house - that persisted for a minute or two minutes," he said.
One of the images he caught on his camera showed "25 or 30 different fragments moving through the air," he said. "When I saw that, I realized it was the massive disruption of the vehicle."
With the help of the Tyler Courier Times Telegraph, the images were distributed worldwide through the AP.
Lieberman, a New York native, said if he weren't practicing medicine, he would want to work in the space program.
"I'm one of those 40-year-olds who grew up watching the moon landings. It's one of those things I always wanted to do. It strikes close to home," he said.
JANUARY 2, 2003
“Israel mourns the tragic death of the astronauts of the Columbia space shuttle, among them Israel's first astronaut, who perished in the unsuccessful re-entry.”
"The Israeli government and people share the sorrow of the Ramon family,
and of the families of the other astronauts, who perished today (Saturday),
February 1, 2003, in the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The Israeli government
sends condolences on
Yesterday, at four o'clock in the afternoon, Israel time, communication was lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia. On Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.
From the moment that we learned of the loss of contact, we followed, together with the rest of the citizens of the world, in trepidation, hope and prayer, the updates which reached us from the space agency until the bitter moment when there was no doubt that the seven astronauts were killed in the space shuttle explosion.
I wish to send from here, on behalf of the government and people of Israel, our sincere condolences to the families of the American astronauts, to the President of the United States, George Bush, and to the people of the United States. Times such as these strengthen the bonds of our common fate, values and vision, all of which were realized in Col. Ilan Ramon's journey into space.
I spoke to Ilan a number of times before he took off on his last mission, and I spoke to him while he was on board. In my conversations with Ilan, I recognized a man of values. A man who dearly loved his people and country. A man who did not deserve to be taken from us, along with our hopes, dreams, history and future, to a place beyond that which we could ever have imagined.
Last night I spoke with Ilan's father, Eliezer and his wife, Rona. I am sure that you all join me in extending condolences to this wonderful family, a family of which we are all proud.
The seven astronauts who were killed yesterday in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, are part of the heavy price paid by the human race in its quest for knowledge, and in our search to explore other worlds.
Their deaths were not in vain. Man's journey into space will continue. Cooperation between the United States and Israel in this field will also continue.
The day will come when we will launch more Israeli astronauts into space. I am sure that each and every one of them will carry in his heart the memory of Ilan Ramon, a pioneer in Israeli space travel.
All the people of Israel bow their heads in memory of Col. Ilan Ramon and the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, heroes of manned space flight.
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