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Space Shuttle Columbia

Space Shuttle Columbia (Buildings & City)

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Space Shuttle (8 pics) Columbia (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-102) was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle (8 pics) in NASA's orbital fleet. Its first mission, STS-1, lasted from Apr. 12 to Apr. 14, 1981 (37 years ago). On Feb. 1, 2003 (15 years ago), Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas, on its 28th mission, killing all seven crew members.

History

Construction began on Columbia in 1975 (43 years ago) primarily in Palmdale, California. Columbia was named after the Boston-based sloop Columbia captained by American Robert Gray, who explored the Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the world; the name also honored Columbia, the Command Module of Apollo 11. After construction, the orbiter arrived at John F. Kennedy Space Center on Mar. 25, 1979 (39 years ago), to prepare for its first launch. On Mar. 19, 1981 (37 years ago), during preparations for a ground test, two workers were asphyxiated during a nitrogen purge, resulting in their deaths.

The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) was commanded by John Young (a space veteran from the Gemini and Apollo eras) and piloted by Robert Crippen, who had never been in space before, but who served as a support crew member for the Skylab missions and Apollo-Soyuz. It launched on Apr. 12, 1981 (37 years ago), the 20th anniversary of human spaceflight, and returned on Apr. 14, 1981 (37 years ago), after orbiting the Earth 36 times. Columbia then undertook three further research missions to test its technical characteristics and performance. Its first operational mission, with a four-man crew, was STS-5, which launched on Nov. 11, 1982 (36 years ago). At this point Columbia was joined by Challenger, which performed the next three shuttle missions.

In 1983 (35 years ago), Columbia undertook its second operational mission (STS-9), this time with six astronauts, including the first non-American astronaut on a Space Shuttle (8 pics), Ulf Merbold. Columbia was not used for the next three years, during which time the shuttle fleet was expanded to include Discovery and Atlantis.

Columbia returned to space on Jan. 12, 1986 (32 years ago), with the launch of STS-61-C. The mission's crew included Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, as well as the first sitting member of the House of Representatives to venture into space, Bill Nelson.

The next shuttle mission was undertaken by Challenger. It was launched on Jan. 28, 1986 (32 years ago), ten days after STS-61-C had landed. The mission ended in disaster shortly after launch. In the aftermath NASA's shuttle timetable was disrupted, and Columbia was not flown again until 1989 (29 years ago) (on STS-28), after which it resumed normal service as part of the shuttle fleet.

STS-93, launched on Jul. 23, 1999 (19 years ago), was commanded by Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, the first female Commander of a U.S. spacecraft.


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