The Columbia space shuttle was on its way back to Earth from its 28th mission which has commenced on January 16th. As it was re-entering the atmosphere, the left wing collapsed leading the shuttle to break up all together. It collapsed about 60km over Texas, minutes before it was supposed to land in Florida. All seven astronauts were killed and further missions were grounded until necessary inspections were made.
The tragedy came almost 17 years to the day of the Challenger disaster (January 28th, 1986) which claimed the lives of the 7 crew members.
Other notable events on February 1st:
In 1960, the Greensboro sit-in takes place in North Carolina, when four African-American students refused to leave a “whites only lunch counter’.
In 1884, the first fascicle of the “Oxford English Dictionary” is published, containing entries A to Ant.