The Columbia Disaster: The Astrological Story

By Mark Lerner

[Dateline February 4, 2003, Eugene, OR (3 days after the loss of the Space Shuttle): Note to all readers… Over the last year, while I have updated our Cosmic Kalendar on this web page, I have not been writing articles… This was primarily due to my Father's passing in 2002 and other family/medical challenges. I had been planning on writing many stories during the last year and the present catastrophe in space will serve as an opportunity for me to now bring out these important features… Return to this Index Page on our web site in the coming weeks and months to enjoy new astrology articles.]

Back in February 1986, we came out with a special edition of Welcome to Planet Earth astrology journal (then in newspaper format) -- focusing on the astrological story of the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. In the 20-year history of our astrology periodical and for my 30+ years of work as a professional astrologer, I have learned that when major events occur on our planet one needs to examine a multitude of astrology cycles -- all happening simultaneously. In other words, there isn't ONE smoking gun where we can say "Ah ha! There's the astrology reason for the catastrophe or crisis." In almost all situations, there are probably well over a dozen factors to consider -- and that's a conservative estimate.

At this point, I want to indicate the kinds of charts we will be examining to understand why Columbia exploded or disintegrated in a fireball on Saturday morning February 1, 2003 over the skies of the Southwest and Texas. When you see this long list, you will realize how complex astrology can become and that this article is merely the opening word on this topic. Here's the list: The Columbia Launch (January 16, 2003); The Columbia Disaster (February 1, 2003); The First Space Shuttle Launch (which was also by the Columbia on April 12, 1981); Alan Shepard -- America's First Person in Space (May 5, 1961); America's Horoscope (July 4, 1776); Discovery of Uranus (March 13, 1781); The Wright Brothers First Powered Air Flight (December 17, 1903); The Birth of NASA (July 29, 1958); The Winter Solstice (December 21, 2002); The New Moon Before the Columbia Disaster (February 1, 2003) and the Full Moon following (February 16, 2003); Columbia Shuttle Commander Rick Husband (July 12, 1957). Now this is a group of 12 charts and it does not even include the charts for the other 6 astronauts -- all of which are significant when something like this occurs! Following this paragraph, I will give the web links to 6 of these birthmaps, so you can explore these horoscopes in detail at your leisure. The other 6 charts will be referred to in the article. By the way, all birth dates for the astronauts were listed on page 16A of USA Today for Monday February 3, 2003.







OK… so far, so good… Here is the reason why the dozen charts mentioned above are all-important to study, understand and juggle around to comprehend the mystery behind this disaster in space. The launch chart for Columbia is crucial, as that is the birthing of the mission itself. For obvious reasons, the disaster chart is a primary map to research. Much can be understood by examining the chart for the first Space Shuttle back on April 12, 1981 that started the entire process. Since that was also the maiden voyage of the Columbia, it is even more important to review. Then there is Alan Shepard's famous sub-orbital flight -- being the first American to visit outer space. [He went up about 115 miles.] America's chart is always significant for any major event affecting the people of the USA. The Discovery of Uranus horoscope is imperative to examine as Uranus rules aviation, technology and shocking happenings. The Wright Brothers First Powered Air Flight is a remarkable chart for the birthing of the age of flight in general. We have studied this map many times before in the pages of Welcome to Planet Earth. NASA's chart is perhaps at the center of this entire mystery and has been presented back in February 1986 after the Challenger Disaster. The Winter Solstice of this past December, the New Moon and Full Moon charts (surrounding the disaster and calculated for Cape Canaveral) may all carry significant astro-pointers to this terrible tragedy. While all the astronauts' charts are significant, the Commander's birthmap is probably the number one chart to analyze -- followed closely by that for the pilot William McCool (September 23, 1961).

Now let's take a look at the evidence and see where all this leads. The Columbia launch and disaster charts are cornerstones for our understanding. The launch moment is recorded as 10:39AM EST on January 16 and reveals a frightening astrological picture. Notice that 29+ Pisces is rising and this brings the last degree of the mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo and Sagittarius) to the other three angles of the chart! The 30th degree of Pisces is the last degree of the entire zodiac. If anything in the zodiac symbolizes finality and completion, this is it. To have all four angles "hit" by the last degrees of the mutable signs is to suggest a kind of razor sharp reality gripping everyone involved in the event. It makes one think that there is no margin for error, perhaps conjuring up images of someone doing a high-wire act without a net. This is sad and ironic as we now know that some kind of heavy foam material broke free at the launch and crashed into the underside of Columbia's left wing -- probably knocking off heat-shield tiles in the process and possibly dooming the re-entry of the Columbia right then and there. If you go back to Columbia's maiden voyage of April 12, 1981 -- the mission that began the shuttle program in the first place -- the main problem at that time (once the Columbia returned) was -- you guessed it -- missing heat-shield tiles! There are more scary connections between the initial Columbia launch (April 12, 1981) and this final one that will be examined shortly.

While the launch chart can be studied in depth, there are two principal planetary alignments that trigger the potential for violence and danger on this flight. You will see Mercury and Jupiter closely approaching an awkward 150-degree pattern -- from Capricorn to Leo, the 10th house to the 5th house. Keep in mind that the launch took place while Mercury (the main ruling planet of transportation) was retrograde and many astrology students and professionals know this as a potentially disturbing time for journeys. However, Jupiter is also retrograde -- the giant planet having begun a reversal on December 4, 2002 during a Total Solar Eclipse. And Jupiter is the planet of long-distance journeys (!) and rules the launch chart because Pisces is rising. [Note: Jupiter is the traditional ruler of both Sagittarius and Pisces. Once Neptune was discovered on September 23, 1846 -- oddly enough the birthday of Columbia Pilot William McCool! -- many astrological researchers began saying that Neptune rules Pisces. Nevertheless, because Neptune takes 164 years to make one full orbit around the Sun, it doesn't rule a sign in the same way the traditional planets rule them. Thus, Jupiter is the fundamental ruler of Pisces -- with Neptune as a kind of co-ruler.] The Mercury-Jupiter 150-degree pattern (that can symbolize disorganization and even death -- 6th and 8th house links) is not only nearing precision within 6 minutes of arc, but both of these planets rule the 4 angles of the launch chart! And Mercury-Jupiter combined connects to the entire process of take-off, orbit and re-entry -- the fundamental travel of the shuttle during its 16 days in space.

The second planetary pattern that is provocative is a little unusual, but just as dynamic and intense. Mars at 29+ Scorpio (in the 8th house of death-rebirth) is approaching an exact square to the asteroid Pallas at 29+ Aquarius (in the 12th house of mysteries and the unknown). Mars is a traditional malefic and well-known as an agent of bloodshed, strife and violence. It certainly links to acute, inflammatory and potentially explosive events -- particularly when it is associated with Uranus. Now Mars is also closely squaring Uranus at 27+ Aquarius in the launch chart itself. However, it is when we go back to April 12, 1981 -- the maiden voyage of the Columbia -- that we are shell-shocked. On the day that the Space Shuttle program was born, transiting Uranus was at 29+ Scorpio exactly opposing transiting Pallas at 29+ Taurus! Thus, the new Columbia launch on January 16, 2003 held a volatile and precise Mars-Pallas square that exactly triggered the potent and disturbing Pallas-Uranus polarity from April 12, 1981. Now Pallas is not only the key asteroid of wisdom, brainstorming, inventiveness, strategizing and genius. It represents the Immune System for a physical body. And -- as I showed in one of 12 articles on this Index Page of the web site regarding Pallas and Germ Warfare (the WTC Disaster series of features) -- Pallas clearly connects to the Pentagon, defense systems AND SHIELDS USED FOR PROTECTION!!!


All of the foregoing sets up a situation that is definitely ominous in its overtones. The Columbia Disaster chart puts a stress on other astrological elements that widen our research. Mars (violence and mayhem) is the most elevated planet and is approaching a precise conjunction with the Moon (public; mass emotions) at 10 Sagittarius at the Wright Brothers First Powered Air Flight. The potent and potentially devastating transiting Uranus/Neptune midpoint is focused at 19+ Aquarius -- the exact Ascending degree at the Wright Brothers Flight. Five of the celestial bodies (Sun, Moon, Uranus, Venus and Pluto) at the Columbia Disaster are conjunct recently-discovered black holes. This creates more cosmic volatility. Transiting Saturn at 22+ Gemini was within 7 minutes of arc of squaring America's natal Neptune at 22+ Virgo and within 1 degree of conjuncting America's natal Mars! The solar and lunar placements in Aquarius -- while strong because a New Moon had just occurred -- were also in the 12th house (sphere of uncertainty and mystery) and close to Neptune (negatively representing confusion, chaos, mental or emotional fog).

The biggest alarm bell in the Columbia Disaster chart comes from the Pluto placement at 19+ Sagittarius. What many people in the astrology community are unaware of is the following. When Uranus was discovered on March 13, 1781 -- ushering in the new dispensation of industry, science and invention -- there was a potent T-Square triangle in the sky composed of the Sun in Pisces, Uranus in Gemini, and a Saturn-Mars conjunction in Sagittarius. This pattern was extremely unsettling and very close. Saturn at that time 222 years ago was located at 19+ Sagittarius -- exactly where Pluto is now! Because Pluto takes 248 years to make one full orbit around the zodiac and was located at 6+ Aquarius at the Discovery of Uranus, Pluto is only just now -- for the first time ever since we discovered Uranus -- crossing Saturn (blocks; fears; karma; old traditions that die hard) from March 13, 1781. However, there is more! When NASA was signed into existence by President Eisenhower sometime during the day of July 29, 1958 in Washington, D.C., Saturn was back at 19+ Sagittarius! It had returned to where it was when Uranus was discovered 177+ years before. Saturn had traveled around the zodiac six times since Uranus was sited and as NASA was born -- becoming our major civilian space agency (Uranus function) -- Saturn was now inhabiting the same degree of the zodiac. Here's the clincher concerning Pluto. At the Columbia Disaster -- and now in effect, on and off, into the Summer-Fall 2004 -- Pluto at 19+ Sagittarius is precisely opposing its own placement from the Wright Brothers Air Flight. Obviously, because of Pluto's great distance from the Sun and its slow speed, this has never happened before. And a Pluto-Pluto polarity -- affecting the chart for the birth of the Age of Flight -- holds terrible ramifications for the air and space industry over the next two years. [NOTE: We are also about to begin a massive AIR ASSAULT against Iraq -- with all that it entails. The Columbia Disaster -- raining down death and destruction over President Bush's native Texas -- could be a giant wake-up call for our government, leaders and the Pentagon to understand the magnitude of what is involved in such a crucial AIR WAR in the coming months while Pluto galvanizes its own placement from December 17, 1903. By the way, later this year, our nation should be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers amazing achievement. It's important that this be truly a positive celebration rather than a time of deepening concern about a widening war around the planet, missile technology getting out of control, and nuclear terror (shadow side of Pluto).]

It is clearly noticeable from the Columbia Disaster chart that the Sun and Moon have just converged and they did so just a few hours before the catastrophe. Their conjunction took place at 12+ Aquarius. When we examine the birthchart for Shuttle Commander Rick Husband, we see he was born with a phenomenal Venus-Mars union at 12+ Leo exactly squared by Juno (empowerment or disempowerment in relationships) at 12+ Taurus. Thus, the New Moon at 12+ Aquarius short-circuited his Venus, Mars and Juno precisely! Just one day before Rick Husband was born, Neptune made a station (therefore, very potent at his birth) at 29+ Libra. This brings us back to the Alan Shepard first space ride for America on May 5, 1961 (10:34AM EST at Cape Canaveral, FL). Late Cancer was rising in that chart and Mars at 29+ Cancer was within 3 degrees of the Ascendant -- exactly opposing Saturn at 29+ Capricorn (nearing its own retrograde station, in its own sign, 4 days after the Shepard mission). Thus, Rick Husband's natal Neptune was exactly triggering the Mars-Saturn polarity from the time America sent its first human into outer space. And triggering it in a very dangerous, confusing and disturbing manner. [NOTE: I mentioned earlier that the Columbia Pilot William McCool -- the chief person steering the shuttle -- was born on September 23, 1961 -- the anniversary of the discovery of Neptune! He was also born on the day of a Jupiter station direct at 27+ Capricorn. Normally, to be born at a Jupiter station is a terrific boost. However, 27+ Capricorn is also the Pluto placement for America from July 4, 1776 and thus carries with it a whole underworld of violence, terror and negativity. The previous Full Moon to the disaster took place on January 18, 2003 with the Sun at 27+ Capricorn and the Moon at 27+ Cancer. Thus, America was about to be "hit" in a major Plutonic way as indicated by this Full Moon! And William McCool suffered because the Full Moon ignited his stationary Jupiter (ruling long-distance journeys and his being in charge of piloting the shuttle itself) -- that was permanently connected to America's natal Pluto. By the way, astronaut William McCool was one of three astronauts on board this shuttle who were 41 years old. When a person is 41, transiting Neptune SQUARES natal Neptune. That's because the entire cycle of Neptune around the zodiac is 164 years and 41 years is precisely a quarter of the whole cycle. When a person turns 41 (and approximately ages 41-42), it is an astrological "rite of passage." Everyone must pass through this difficult portal. It is challenging because Neptune is an outer, transcendental planet and its shadow side is often extreme nebulosity/uncertainty. The two female mission specialists -- Kalpana Chawla (July 1, 1961) and Laurel Clark (March 10, 1961) -- were both battling Neptune-Neptune squares along with Pilot William McCool.]

There's a lot more to solving this puzzle and trying to understand the deeper reasons for this disaster in space. Like the Challenger explosion, NASA is at the center of the entire problem. Born within 24 hours of a frictional, tense Sun-Mars square in fixed, power signs (Sun at 6+ Leo and Mars at 5+ Taurus), NASA always seems to create controversy throughout its 44+ year history. The Sun-Mars square is actually more elaborate as Neptune at 2+ Scorpio serves to widen the pattern into a volatile T-Square triangle. And the NASA Sun is also approaching a conjunction to Uranus (scientific genius and inventions; air travel) at 11+ Leo -- a natal Uranus for NASA about to be opposed several times in 2003 by transiting Neptune at 11+ Aquarius. This type of rare polarity for an organization like NASA represents the confusion (Neptune) swirling around in the public consciousness about the science/technology (Uranus) at the heart of the life of NASA. In addition, the New Moon at 12 Aquarius -- that happened just 3+ hours before Columbia was destroyed -- was exactly opposing NASA's Uranus (shock waves and technological failures) within 1/2 degree! Be aware that transiting Neptune will be crisscrossing 11+ Aquarius in 2003 - which is the Heliocentric South Node of Neptune as that planet intersects with the Earth's orbit around the Sun. All of this is a little too tricky to explain here. Thus, another article will focus on this important occurrence. In a nutshell, it means that 2003 is a rare year that will bring astounding Neptunian events into the forefront of consciousness for Planet Earth, Humanity and America.

It should be noted that one of the main conflicts at the Challenger explosion in 1986 was a Sun-Mercury conjunction in early Aquarius closely squaring Pluto in early Scorpio (exactly setting as the event took place). This potent square in fixed, power signs also ignited the natal Sun-Mars square in fixed, power signs for NASA. Talk about fate and destiny! Now, we have already seen from the above analysis that transiting Pluto right now and at the Columbia Disaster is a big problem. It is catalyzing and igniting -- either by conjunction or opposition -- Saturn energies from the Discovery of Uranus and the formation of NASA, and its own placement from the Wright Brothers First Flight. What you may not realize is that when Columbia flew on its maiden voyage on April 12, 1981 -- birthing the entire Space Shuttle program -- it was the one day of the year when the Sun opposed Pluto (from 22+ Aries to 22+ Libra)! Thus, inherent within Columbia itself, and the shuttle program, was this Plutonic seed of death-rebirth, deep transformation, catharsis, purification, underworld themes and metamorphosis. Because there was also a close Sun-Mars union on April 12, 1981, this was the coming together of the two celestial bodies that were square when NASA began on July 29, 1958. NASA saw the space shuttle program as its ANSWER for the future (Sun-Mars unified and strong in Aries) -- to gain presidential support, congressional funding and public recognition. What NASA didn't understand was that distant, invisible and often terrifying Pluto was in direct opposition to the Sun-Mars conjunction that happened when Columbia flew off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral on that historic day in April of 1981.

It is noteworthy that the Space Shuttle program also began when the Moon was transiting in Leo (close to its own North Node -- a favorable signal) and conjunct NASA's natal Sun. That first mission 22 years ago was seen as a major success. However, hidden within that chart are two more disturbing planetary realities. Neptune from April 12, 1981 was at 24+ Sagittarius -- exactly opposing the discovery degree for Uranus (science; aviation; technology) at 24+ Gemini. And here's another provocative transit to watch like a hawk. Uranus at 29+ Aquarius in 2003 is exactly squaring its own placement from April 12, 1981 (29+ Scorpio) three times. The precise crossings are late February/early March, late September/early October, and much of December. A full Uranus cycle through the zodiac takes approximately 84 years and a quarter of the cycle is about 21 years. This is a natural time to REVOLUTIONIZE (Uranus) and, if necessary, RADICALLY CHANGE (Uranus) the design of the shuttle and science allowing it to safely complete its missions in space.

While I could keep exploring the myriad connections of all these charts, for the time being you probably have enough to contemplate. Here are a few final thoughts. If you research more about Alan Shepard's first voyage into outer space, you will see a potent Jupiter placement on May 5, 1961 at 6+ Aquarius. Jupiter can represent optimism, success potential, buoyancy and good fortune. It is also the ancient King of the Gods and ruler of the sky. Its placement exactly united with Pluto from the Discovery of Uranus, Saturn from the Wright Brothers Air Flight, and opposed NASA's Sun. This is another example of how inter-related all these charts are. For example, in our February 1986 WTPE astrology newspaper, when covering the Challenger Disaster, we also printed the chart for the fiery death of three Apollo 1 astronauts on January 27, 1967. On that day, the Sun at 7 Aquarius was opposing NASA's Sun and transiting Juno (empowerment OR disempowerment in key relationships) at 6+ Leo was exactly crossing NASA's Sun! The astronauts were training for their future mission, oxygen ignited in a terrible mishap, and they couldn't escape from their training capsule. They were trapped -- a negative Juno experience in the extreme. By the way, it is amazing to realize that America has its own lunar nodal axis (destiny/fate) focused at 6+ Leo-Aquarius. Thus, NASA's Sun is right on the USA North Node (showing its potential gifts to our country), but NASA's Mars (conflict; death; strife) is squaring our nodal axis. This is also one of the reasons for our checkered career of sending space vehicles to the actual red planet Mars and the long-simmering controversy about the Face on Mars and whether NASA is hiding the truth about a possible ancient civilization and ruins on that planet. We also note that when the Apollo 1 astronauts lost their lives, transiting Mars at 25+ Libra was exactly crossing NASA's natal Lunar North Node (negative fateful experience) and the transiting Lunar Nodal Axis at 11+ Taurus-Scorpio was exactly squaring NASA's natal Uranus at 11+ Leo (technological failure). All this reminds us of astrology's ability to clarify what's happening with all these events, organizations and individuals.

As we look to the near future, the first Full Moon after the Columbia Disaster occurs on February 16. It's the day of an extremely powerful Mars-Pluto union at 19+ Sagittarius (something that only happens approximately every 2+ years) -- with both planets opposing Pluto from the Wright Brothers Flight and conjuncting Saturn from the Discovery of Uranus and the birth of NASA. And Pluto itself will be precisely -- no orb at all! -- opposing that Pluto placement from December 17, 1903. The Full Moon energy itself will be focused at 27+ Aquarius-Leo -- right on America's natal Moon (public consciousness and mass emotions) and the Sun will be less than 1 degree from uniting with Uranus (ruler of aviation, science, technology and the New Age being born in the 21st century). This is a key time for diagnosing the failures of the latest mission and setting NASA on a more fulfilling and promising path into the future. Uranus is also about to enter Pisces for over 7 years starting on December 30, 2003 -- with an earlier visit from March 10 of this year through September 14. We all need to become more sensitive to, in tune with and spiritually aware of how science, technology and the aviation industry are altering our daily lives and the quality of Higher Life on Spaceship Earth.

© 2003 by Great Bear Enterprises, Ltd and Mark Lerner. All rights reserved.

[Mark Lerner is the publisher of Welcome to Planet Earth. Please reach him at PO Box 12007, Eugene OR 97440 or via e-mail at You can also utilize the following link in order to visit the Index Page of our astrology web site.]