Former Space Shuttle Engineer Talks About Columbia Tragedy

The tragedy with Columbia has affected many of us, particularly those who are part of the space program.

John Tinsley rose from poverty, went through the great depression, and ultimately made his dream come true to become part of the space program.

He tells us his story and reflection of Columbia’s tragedy. John Tinsley's daughter was in Texas when Columbia exploded.

“She noticed the unusual contrail from the space craft itself, then she heard that explosion, she saw the puffs of smoke, go in different directions so she called me,” Tinsley explains.

She knew the news would hit home for her father. John is a NASA pioneer, who joined the team in 1964 with the Gemini Program, through the Apollo and then to the Columbia program, as the safety engineer.

“I proudly watched the launch of Columbia one on April 12 1981, as part of the launch team, I was proud of it,” Tinsley says.

The recent tragedy brought memories back for John reminding him of the three lives lost on the Apollo mission during his time with NASA.

“The astronauts know this before they undertake the task of being part of that program, all I can say it it's sad, the saddest part is when we lost the three on Apollo I,” says Tinsley.

But he says, despite of it all, the space program has continued and prevailed. Thanks to the men and women who dedicate their lives to its success.

“You feel comfortable, knowing that they were part of progress, and scientific advancement in this country of ours.” Tinsley comments.

John retired from NASA after the first Columbia launched in 1981, he then moved to Valdosta. To this day, he still keeps contact with his old buddies from Kennedy Space Center.

So what started John's love for space exploration? At the age of 13, he saw his first movie, Buck Rogers, and that's when he knew he wanted to take part in the space program.