Space Shuttle Columbia

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Columbia
OV-102
Columbia STS-109 preparing for launch.jpg
Columbia preparing for launch for STS-109 to repair the Hubble Space telescope. This was the final successful mission of Columbia before STS-107.
OV designation OV-102
CountryUnited States
Contract awardJuly 26, 1972
Named after Columbia (1773) [1]
Status Destroyed February 1, 2003
First flight STS-1
April 12, 1981 – April 14, 1981
Last flight STS-107
January 16, 2003 – February 1, 2003
No. of missions28
Crew members160
Time spent in space300 days 17:40:22 [2]
No. of orbits4,808
Distance travelled201,497,772 km (125,204,911 miles)
Satellites deployed8

Space Shuttle Columbia (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-102) was the first space-rated orbiter in NASA's Space Shuttle fleet. It launched for the first time on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981, the first flight of the Space Shuttle program. Serving for over 22 years, it completed 27 missions before disintegrating during re-entry near the end of its 28th mission, STS-107 on February 1, 2003, resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members.

Each NASA space shuttle designation was composed of a prefix and suffix separated by a dash. The prefix for operational shuttles is OV, for Orbiter Vehicle.

Space Shuttle orbiter Reusable spacecraft component of the Space Shuttle system

The Space Shuttle orbiter is the spaceplane component of the Space Shuttle, a partially reusable orbital spacecraft system that was part of the Space Shuttle program. Operated by NASA, the U.S. space agency, this vehicle could carry astronauts and payloads into low Earth orbit, perform in-space operations, then re-enter the atmosphere and land as a glider, returning its crew and any on-board payload to the Earth.

NASA space-related agency of the United States government

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

Contents

History

Construction began on Columbia in 1975 at Rockwell International's (formerly North American Aviation/North American Rockwell) principal assembly facility in Palmdale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Columbia was named after the American sloop Columbia Rediviva which, from 1787 to 1793, under the command of Captain Robert Gray, explored the US Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe. It is also named after the Command Module of Apollo 11, the first manned landing on another celestial body. [3] Columbia was also the female symbol of the United States. After construction, the orbiter arrived at Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 1979, to prepare for its first launch. Columbia was originally scheduled to lift off in late 1979, however the launch date was delayed by problems with both the Space Shuttle main engine (SSME), as well as the thermal protection system (TPS). [4] On March 19, 1981, during preparations for a ground test, workers were asphyxiated while working in Columbia's nitrogen-purged aft engine compartment, resulting in (variously reported) two or three fatalities. [5] [6]

Rockwell International 1973-2001 aerospace manufacturer

Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, power tools, valves and meters, and industrial automation. Rockwell ultimately became a group of companies founded by Colonel Willard Rockwell. At its peak in the 1990s, Rockwell International was No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list, with assets of over $8 billion, sales of $27 billion and 115,000 employees.

North American Aviation former aerospace manufacturer in the United States

North American Aviation (NAA) was a major American aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo command and service module, the second stage of the Saturn V rocket, the Space Shuttle orbiter and the B-1 Lancer.

Palmdale, California City in California, United States

Palmdale is a city in northern Los Angeles County in the U.S. state of California. The city lies in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains separate Palmdale from the city of Los Angeles to the south.

Columbia in the Orbiter Processing Facility after delivery to Kennedy Space Center in 1979. About 8 thousand of 30,000 tiles still had to be installed. 566175main columbia-opf.jpg
Columbia in the Orbiter Processing Facility after delivery to Kennedy Space Center in 1979. About 8 thousand of 30,000 tiles still had to be installed.

The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) was commanded by John Young, a veteran from the Gemini and Apollo programs who was the ninth person to walk on the Moon in 1972, and piloted by Robert Crippen, a rookie astronaut originally selected to fly on the military's Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) spacecraft, but transferred to NASA after its cancellation, and served as a support crew member for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz missions.

STS-1 1981 Space Shuttle mission, first orbital flight of the Shuttle Columbia

STS-1 was the first orbital spaceflight of NASA's Space Shuttle program. The first orbiter, Columbia, launched on 12 April 1981 and returned on 14 April, 54.5 hours later, having orbited the Earth 36 times. Columbia carried a crew of two – mission commander John W. Young and pilot Robert L. Crippen. It was the first American manned space flight since the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project in 1975. STS-1 was also the only maiden test flight of a new American spacecraft to carry a crew, though it was preceded by atmospheric testing of the orbiter and ground testing of the space shuttle system.

John Young (astronaut) American astronaut, naval officer, test pilot and aeronautical engineer

John Watts Young was an American astronaut, naval officer and aviator, test pilot, and aeronautical engineer. He became the ninth person to walk on the Moon as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Young enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut, becoming the first person to fly six space missions over the course of 42 years of active NASA service. He is the only person to have piloted, and been commander of, four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.

Project Gemini NASAs second human spaceflight program

Project Gemini was NASA's second human spaceflight program. Conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo, Gemini started in 1961 and concluded in 1966. The Gemini spacecraft carried a two-astronaut crew. Ten Gemini crews flew low Earth orbit (LEO) missions during 1965 and 1966, putting the United States in the lead during the Cold War Space Race against the Soviet Union.

Columbia spent 610 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), another 35 days in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and 105 days on Pad 39A before finally lifting off. [4] Columbia was successfully launched on April 12, 1981, the 20th anniversary of the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1), and returned on April 14, 1981, after orbiting the Earth 36 times, landing on the dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. 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 November 11, 1982. At this point Columbia was joined by Challenger , which flew the next three shuttle missions, while Columbia underwent modifications for the first Spacelab mission.

Human spaceflight space travel with humans aboard spacecraft

Human spaceflight is space travel with a crew or passengers aboard the spacecraft. Spacecraft carrying people may be operated directly, by human crew, or it may be either remotely operated from ground stations on Earth or be autonomous, able to carry out a specific mission with no human involvement.

Vostok 1 spaceflight of the Vostok programme

Vostok 1 was the first spaceflight of the Vostok programme and the first manned spaceflight in history. The Vostok 3KA space capsule was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961, with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard, making him the first human to cross into outer space.

Edwards Air Force Base United States Air Force installation in Southern California

Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force installation located in Kern County in southern California, about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Lancaster and 15 miles (24 km) east of Rosamond.

Columbia astronauts Thomas K. Mattingly and Pilot Henry Hartsfield salute President Ronald Reagan, standing beside his wife, Nancy, upon landing in 1982. NASA salutes Reagans.jpg
Columbia astronauts Thomas K. Mattingly and Pilot Henry Hartsfield salute President Ronald Reagan, standing beside his wife, Nancy, upon landing in 1982.

In 1983, Columbia, under the command of John Young on what was his sixth spaceflight, undertook its second operational mission (STS-9), in which the Spacelab science laboratory and a six-person crew was carried, including the first non-American astronaut on a space shuttle, Ulf Merbold. After the flight, Columbia spent 18 months at the Rockwell Palmdale facility beginning in January 1984, undergoing modifications that removed the Orbiter Flight Test hardware and bringing it up to similar specifications as those of its sister orbiters. At that time the shuttle fleet was expanded to include Discovery and Atlantis .

STS-9 human spaceflight

STS-9 was the ninth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Launched on November 28, 1983, the ten-day mission carried the first Spacelab laboratory module into orbit.

Ulf Merbold German astronaut

Dr. Ulf Dietrich Merbold is the first West German citizen and second German native to have flown in space. He is also the first member of the European Space Agency Astronaut Corps to participate in a spaceflight mission and the first non-US citizen to reach orbit in a US spacecraft. In 1983, he and Byron Lichtenberg became the first Payload Specialists to fly on the shuttle.

Space Shuttle <i>Discovery</i> Space shuttle orbiter

Space Shuttle Discovery is one of the orbiters from NASA's Space Shuttle program and the third of five fully operational orbiters to be built. Its first mission, STS-41-D, flew from August 30 to September 5, 1984. Over 27 years of service it launched and landed 39 times, gathering more spaceflights than any other spacecraft to date. The shuttle has three main components: the orbiter, a central fuel tank, and two rocket boosters. Nearly 25,000 heat resistant tiles cover the orbiter to protect it from high temperatures on re-entry.

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

STS-61-C human spaceflight

STS-61-C was the 24th mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the seventh mission of Space Shuttle Columbia. It was the first time that Columbia, the first space-rated Space Shuttle orbiter to be constructed, had flown since STS-9. The mission launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on 12 January 1986, and landed six days later on 18 January. STS-61-C's seven-person crew included the second African-American shuttle pilot, future NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the first Costa Rican-born astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, and the second sitting politician to fly in space, Representative Bill Nelson (D-FL). It was the last shuttle mission before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which occurred just ten days after STS-61-C's landing.

United States House of Representatives lower house of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States.

Bill Nelson Former United States Senator from Florida

Clarence William Nelson II is an American politician, who served as United States Senator from Florida from 2001 to 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978 and in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. In January 1986, he became the second sitting member of Congress to fly in space when he served as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia. Before entering politics he served in the U.S. Army Reserve during the Vietnam War.

The next shuttle mission, STS-51-L, was undertaken by Challenger. It was launched on January 28, 1986, ten days after STS-61-C had landed, and ended in disaster 73 seconds after launch. In the aftermath NASA's shuttle timetable was disrupted, and Columbia was not flown again until 1989 (on STS-28), after which it resumed normal service as part of the shuttle fleet.

STS-93, launched on July 23, 1999, was the first U.S. space mission with a female commander, Lt. Col. Eileen Collins. This mission deployed the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Columbia's final successful mission was STS-109, the fourth servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Its next mission, STS-107, culminated in the orbiter's loss when it disintegrated during reentry, killing all seven of its crew.

Consequently, President George W. Bush decided to retire the Shuttle orbiter fleet by 2010 in favor of the Constellation program and its manned Orion spacecraft. The Constellation program was later cancelled with the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 signed by President Barack Obama on October 11.

Construction milestones

DateMilestone [8]
July 26, 1972Contract Awarded to North American Rockwell
March 25, 1975Start long lead fabrication aft fuselage
November 17, 1975Start long-lead fabrication of crew module
June 28, 1976Start assembly of crew module
September 13, 1976Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
December 13, 1977Start assembly upper forward fuselage
January 3, 1977Start assembly vertical stabilizer
August 26, 1977Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
October 28, 1977Lower forward fuselage on dock, Palmdale
November 7, 1977Start of Final Assembly
February 24, 1978Body flap on dock, Palmdale
April 28, 1978Forward payload bay doors on dock, Palmdale
May 26, 1978Upper forward fuselage mate
July 7, 1978Complete mate forward and aft payload bay doors
September 11, 1978Complete forward RCS
February 3, 1979Complete combined systems test, Palmdale
February 16, 1979Airlock on dock, Palmdale
March 5, 1979Complete postcheckout
March 8, 1979Closeout inspection, Final Acceptance Palmdale
March 8, 1979Rollout from Palmdale to Dryden
March 12, 1979Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards
March 20, 1979SCA Ferry Flight from DFRC to Biggs AFB, Texas
March 22, 1979SCA Ferry flight from Biggs AFB to Kelly AFB, Texas
March 24, 1979SCA Ferry flight from Kelly AFB to Eglin AFB, Florida
March 24, 1979SCA Ferry flight from Eglin, AFB to KSC
November 3, 1979Auxiliary Power Unit hot fire tests, OPF KSC
December 16, 1979Orbiter integrated test start, KSC
January 14, 1980Orbiter integrated test complete, KSC
February 20, 1981Flight Readiness Firing
April 12, 1981First Flight (STS-1)

Prototype orbiter

Columbia launching during STS-1. Its distinctive black chines and "USA" painted on the starboard wing are visible. Columbia was the only orbiter launched with its external tank painted white, which was later discontinued to save weight. Space Shuttle Columbia launching.jpg
Columbia launching during STS-1. Its distinctive black chines and "USA" painted on the starboard wing are visible. Columbia was the only orbiter launched with its external tank painted white, which was later discontinued to save weight.

Weight

As the second orbiter to be constructed, and the first able to fly into space, Columbia was roughly 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) heavier than subsequent orbiters such as Endeavour, which were of a slightly different design, and had benefited from advances in materials technology. [9] In part, this was due to heavier wing and fuselage spars, the weight of early test instrumentation that remained fitted to the avionics suite, and an internal airlock that, originally fitted into the other orbiters, was later removed in favor of an external airlock to facilitate Shuttle/Mir and Shuttle/International Space Station dockings. [10] Due to its weight, Columbia could not have used the planned Centaur-G booster (cancelled after the loss of Challenger). [11] The retention of the internal airlock allowed NASA to use Columbia for the STS-109 Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, along with the Spacehab double module used on STS-107.[ citation needed ] Due to Columbia's heavier weight, it was less ideal for NASA to use it for missions to the International Space Station, though modifications were made to the Shuttle during its last refit in case the spacecraft was needed for such tasks.

Thermal protection system

Externally, Columbia was the first orbiter in the fleet whose surface was mostly covered with High & Low Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation (HRSI/LRSI) tiles as its main thermal protection system (TPS), with white silicone rubber-painted Nomex – known as Felt Reusable Surface Insulation (FRSI) blankets – in some areas on the wings, fuselage and payload bay doors. FRSI once covered almost 25% of the orbiter; the first upgrade resulted in its removal from many areas, and in later flights it was only used on the upper section of the payload bay doors and inboard sections of the upper wing surfaces. [12] The upgrade also involved replacing many of the white LRSI tiles on the upper surfaces with Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation (AFRSI) blankets (also known as Fibrous Insulation Blankets, or FIBs) that had been used on Discovery and Atlantis. Originally, Columbia had 32,000 tiles – the upgrade reduced this to 24,300. The AFRSI blankets consisted of layers of pure silica felt sandwiched between a layer of silica fabric on the outside and S-Glass fabric on the inside, stitched together using pure silica thread in a 1-inch grid, then coated with a high-purity silica coating. The blankets were semi-rigid and could be made as large as 30" by 30". Each blanket replaced as many as 25 tiles and was bonded directly to the orbiter. [12] The direct application of the blankets to the orbiter resulted in weight reduction, improved durability, reduced fabrication and installation cost, and reduced installation schedule time. [13] All of this work was performed during Columbia's first retrofitting and the post-Challenger stand-down.

Columbia landing at Edwards Air Force Base following STS-28. Space Shuttle Columbia lands following STS-28 in 1989.jpg
Columbia landing at Edwards Air Force Base following STS-28.

Despite refinements to the orbiter's thermal protection system and other enhancements, Columbia would never weigh as little unloaded as the other orbiters in the fleet. The next-oldest shuttle, Challenger, was also relatively heavy, although 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) lighter than Columbia.

Markings and insignia

Until its last refit, Columbia was the only operational orbiter with wing markings consisting of an American flag on the port (left) wing and the letters "USA" on the starboard (right) wing. Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour all, until 1998, bore markings consisting of the letters "USA" above an American flag on the left wing, and the pre-1998 NASA "worm" logo afore the respective orbiter's name on the right wing. ( Enterprise , the test vehicle which was the prototype for Columbia, originally had the same wing markings as Columbia but with the letters "USA" on the right wing spaced closer together; Enterprise's markings were modified to match Challenger in 1983.) The name of the orbiter was originally placed on the payload bay doors much like Enterprise but was placed on the crew cabin after the Challenger disaster so that the orbiter could be easily identified while in orbit. From its last refit to its destruction, Columbia bore markings identical to those of its operational sister orbiters – the NASA "meatball" logo on the left wing and the American flag afore the orbiter's name on the right; only Columbia's distinctive wing "chines" remained. These black areas on the upper surfaces of the shuttle's forward wing were added because, at first, shuttle designers did not know how reentry heating would affect the craft's upper wing surfaces.[ citation needed ] The "chines" allowed Columbia to be easily recognized at a distance, as opposed to the subsequent orbiters. The "chines" were added after Columbia arrived at KSC in 1979.

SILTS pod

Another unique external feature, termed the "SILTS" pod (Shuttle Infrared Leeside Temperature Sensing), [14] was located on the top of Columbia's vertical stabilizer, and was installed after STS-9 to acquire infrared and other thermal data. Though the pod's equipment was removed after initial tests, NASA decided to leave it in place, mainly to save costs, along with the agency's plans to use it for future experiments. The vertical stabilizer was later modified to incorporate the drag chute first used on Endeavour in 1992.

Other upgrades

Columbia landing at the Kennedy Space Center following STS-62. Space Shuttle Columbia lands following STS-62 on 18 March 1994..jpg
Columbia landing at the Kennedy Space Center following STS-62.

Columbia was also originally fitted with Lockheed-built ejection seats identical to those found on the SR-71 Blackbird. These were active for the four orbital test flights, but deactivated after STS-4, and removed entirely after STS-9. Columbia was also the only spaceworthy orbiter not delivered with head-up displays for the Commander and Pilot, although these were incorporated after STS-9. Like its sister ships, Columbia was eventually retrofitted with the new MEDS "glass cockpit" display and lightweight seats.

Future

Space Shuttle Columbia launches on STS-109(HST-3B), its final successful mission STS-109 launch.jpg
Space Shuttle Columbia launches on STS-109(HST-3B), its final successful mission

Had Columbia not been destroyed, it would have been fitted with the external airlock/docking adapter for STS-118, an International Space Station assembly mission, originally planned for November 2003. Columbia was scheduled for this mission due to Discovery being out of service for its Orbital Maintenance Down Period, and because the ISS assembly schedule could not be adhered to with only Endeavour and Atlantis.

Columbia's 'career' would have started to wind down after STS-118. It was to service the Hubble Space Telescope two more times between 2004 and 2005, but no more missions were planned for it again except for a mission designated STS-144 where it would retrieve the Hubble Space Telescope from orbit and bring it back to Earth.[ citation needed ] Following the Columbia accident, NASA flew the STS-125 mission using Atlantis , combining the planned fourth and fifth servicing missions into one final mission to Hubble. Because of the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, the batteries and gyroscopes that keep the telescope pointed will eventually fail also because of the magnifier screen, which would result in its reentry and break-up in Earth's atmosphere. A "Soft Capture Docking Mechanism", based on the docking adapter that was to be used on the Orion spacecraft, was installed during the last servicing mission in anticipation of this event.

Columbia was also scheduled to launch the X-38 V-201 Crew Return Vehicle prototype as the next mission after STS-118, until the cancellation of the project in 2002. [15]

Flights

Columbia flew 28 missions, gathering 300.74 days spent in space with 4,808 orbits and a total distance of 125,204,911 miles (201,497,772 km) up until STS-107.

Despite being in service during the Shuttle-Mir and International Space Station programs, Columbia did not fly any missions that visited a space station. The other three active orbiters at the time had visited both Mir and the ISS at least once. Columbia was not suited for high-inclination missions.

#DateDesignationLaunch padLanding locationNotes
11981, April 12 STS-1 39-A Edwards Air Force Base First shuttle mission.
21981, November 12 STS-2 39-A Edwards Air Force Base First re-use of manned space vehicle
31982, March 22 STS-3 39-A White Sands Space Harbor First mission with an unpainted external tank.
First and only space shuttle landing at White Sands.
41982, June 27 STS-4 39-A Edwards Air Force Base Last shuttle R&D flight
51982, November 11 STS-5 39-A Edwards Air Force Base First four-person crew, first deployment of commercial satellite.
61983 November 28 STS-9 39-A Edwards Air Force Base First six-person crew, first Spacelab.
71986, January 12 STS-61-C 39-A Edwards Air Force Base Representative Bill Nelson (D-FL) on board/ final successful shuttle flight before the Challenger disaster
81989, August 8 STS-28 39-B Edwards Air Force Base Launched KH-11 reconnaissance satellite
91990, January 9 STS-32 39-A Edwards Air Force Base Retrieved Long Duration Exposure Facility
101990, December 2 STS-35 39-B Edwards Air Force Base Carried multiple X-ray & UV telescopes
111991, June 5 STS-40 39-B Edwards Air Force Base 5th Spacelab – Life Sciences-1
121992, June 25 STS-50 39-A Kennedy Space Center (due to Hurricane Darby)U.S. Microgravity Laboratory 1 (USML-1)
131992, October 22 STS-52 39-B Kennedy Space Center Deployed Laser Geodynamic Satellite II
141993, April 26 STS-55 39-A Edwards Air Force Base German Spacelab D-2 Microgravity Research
151993, October 18 STS-58 39-B Edwards Air Force Base Spacelab Life Sciences
161994, March 4 STS-62 39-B Kennedy Space Center United States Microgravity Payload-2 (USMP-2)
171994, July 8 STS-65 39-A Kennedy Space Center International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2)
181995, October 20 STS-73 39-B Kennedy Space Center United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2)
191996, February 22 STS-75 39-B Kennedy Space Center Tethered Satellite System Reflight (TSS-1R)
201996, June 20 STS-78 39-B Kennedy Space Center Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS)
211996, November 19 STS-80 39-B Kennedy Space Center 3rd flight of Wake Shield Facility (WSF)/ longest Shuttle flight
221997, April 4 STS-83 39-A Kennedy Space Center Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL)- cut short
231997, July 1 STS-94 39-A Kennedy Space Center Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL)- reflight
241997, November 19 STS-87 39-B Kennedy Space Center United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4)
251998, April 13 STS-90 39-B Kennedy Space Center Neurolab – Spacelab
261999, July 23 STS-93 39-B Kennedy Space Center Deployed Chandra X-ray Observatory; first female Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins
272002, March 1 STS-109 39-A Kennedy Space Center Hubble Space Telescope service mission (HSM-3B)
282003, January 16 STS-107 39-ADid not land (Planned to land at Kennedy Space Center)A multi-disciplinary microgravity and Earth science research mission. Shuttle destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 and all seven astronauts on board killed.

Mission and tribute insignias

NASA Orbiter Tribute for Space Shuttle Columbia Space Shuttle Columbia tribute poster.jpg
NASA Orbiter Tribute for Space Shuttle Columbia
Mission insignia for Columbia flights
Sts-1-patch.png
Sts-2-patch.png
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Sts9 flight insignia.svg
STS-61-c-patch.png
STS-61-E patch.png
STS-1
STS-2
STS-3
STS-4
STS-5
STS 9
STS-61-C
STS-61-E*
Sts-28-patch.png
STS-32 patch.png
Sts-35-patch.svg
Sts-40-patch.png
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STS-28
STS-32
STS-35
STS-40
STS-50
STS-52
STS-55
STS-58
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Sts-65-patch.png
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STS-62
.
STS-65
STS-73
STS-75
STS-78
STS-80
STS-83
STS-94
Sts-87-patch.svg
Sts-90-patch.svg
Sts-93-patch.png
STS-109 patch.svg
STS-107 Flight Insignia.svg
STS-118 patch new.svg
STS-121 patch.svg
STS-87
STS-90
STS-93
STS-109
STS-107
STS-118**
STS-121***

* Mission cancelled following suspension of shuttle flights following the Challenger disaster.

** Mission flown by Endeavour due to loss of Columbia on STS-107.

*** Mission flown by Discovery due to loss of Columbia on STS-107.

Final mission and destruction

The crew of STS-107 in October 2001. From left to right: Brown, Husband, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, McCool, Ramon Crew of STS-107, official photo.jpg
The crew of STS-107 in October 2001. From left to right: Brown, Husband, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, McCool, Ramon
Columbia memorial in Arlington National Cemetery Columbia Memorial.JPG
Columbia memorial in Arlington National Cemetery

Columbia was destroyed at about 09:00 EST on February 1, 2003 while re-entering the atmosphere after a 16-day scientific mission. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board determined that a hole was punctured in the leading edge on one of Columbia's wings, which was made of a carbon composite. The hole had formed when a piece of insulating foam from the external fuel tank peeled off during the launch 16 days earlier and struck the shuttle's left wing. During the intense heat of re-entry, hot gases penetrated the interior of the wing, likely compromising the hydraulic system and leading to control failure of the control surfaces. The resulting loss of control exposed minimally protected areas of the orbiter to full-entry heating and dynamic pressures that eventually led to vehicle break up. [16]

The report delved deeply into the underlying organizational and cultural issues that the Board believed contributed to the accident. The report was highly critical of NASA's decision-making and risk-assessment processes. Further, the board determined that, unlike NASA's early claims, a rescue mission would have been possible using the Shuttle Atlantis, which was essentially ready for launch, and might have saved the Columbia crewmembers. [17] The nearly 84,000 pieces of collected debris of the vessel are stored in a 16th-floor office suite in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. The collection was opened to the media once and has since been open only to researchers. [18] [19] Unlike Challenger, which had a replacement orbiter built, Columbia did not.

The seven crew members who died aboard this final mission were: Rick Husband, Commander; William C. McCool, Pilot; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander/Mission Specialist 3; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2; Laurel Clark, Mission Specialist 4; and Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1. [20]

Tributes and memorials

Patricia Huffman Smith Museum

The debris field encompassed hundreds of miles across Northeast Texas and into Louisiana. The nose cap and remains of all seven crew members were found in Sabine County, East Texas. [ citation needed ] To honor those who lost their lives aboard the shuttle and during the recovery efforts, the Patricia Huffman Smith NASA Museum "Remembering Columbia" was opened in Hemphill, Sabine County, Texas. The museum tells the story of Space Shuttle Columbia explorations throughout all its missions, including the final STS-107. Its exhibits also show the efforts of local citizens during the recovery period of the Columbia shuttle debris and its crew's remains. An area is dedicated to each STS-107 crew member, and also to the Texas Forest Service helicopter pilot who died in the recovery effort. The museum houses many objects and artifacts from: NASA and its contractors; the families of the STS-107 crew; and other individuals. The crew's families contributed personal items of the crew members to be on permanent display. The museum features two interactive simulator displays that emulate activities of the shuttle and orbiter. The digital learning center and its classroom provide educational opportunities for all ages. [21]

Columbia Memorial Space Center

The Columbia Memorial Space Center is the U.S. national memorial for the Space Shuttle Columbia's seven crew members. It is located in Downey on the site of the Space Shuttle's origins and production, the former North American Aviation plant in Los Angeles County, southern California. The facility is also a hands-on learning center with interactive exhibits, workshops, and classes about space science, astronautics, and the Space Shuttle program's legacy — providing educational opportunities for all ages. [22]

Naming dedications

The Shuttle's final crew was honored in 2003 when the United States Board on Geographic Names approved the name Columbia Point for a 13,980-foot (4,260 m) mountain in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, less than a half-mile from Challenger Point, a peak named after America's other lost Space Shuttle. The Columbia Hills on Mars were also named in honor of the crew, and a host of other memorials were dedicated in various forms.

The Columbia supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division located at Ames Research Center in California was named in honor of the crew lost in the 2003 disaster. Built as a joint effort between NASA and technical partners SGI and Intel in 2004, the supercomputer was used in scientific research of space, the Earth's climate, and aerodynamic design of space launch vehicles and aircraft. [23] The first part of the system, built in 2003, was dedicated to STS-107 astronaut and engineer Kalpana Chawla, who prior to joining the Space Shuttle program worked at Ames Research Center. [24]

Media tributes

Guitarist Steve Morse of the rock band Deep Purple wrote the instrumental "Contact Lost" in response to the tragedy, recorded by Deep Purple and featured as the closing track on their 2003 album "Bananas". It was dedicated to the astronauts whose lives were lost in the disaster. Morse donated songwriting royalties to the families of lost astronauts. [25] Astronaut and mission specialist engineer Kalpana Chawla, one of the victims of the accident, was a fan of Deep Purple and had exchanged e-mails with the band during the flight, making the tragedy even more personal for the group. [25] She took three CDs into space with her, two of which were Deep Purple albums ( Machine Head and Purpendicular ). Both CDs survived the destruction of the shuttle and the 39-mile plunge. [26]

The musical group Echo's Children included singer-songwriter Cat Faber's "Columbia" on their final album From the Hazel Tree. [27]

The Long Winters band's 2005 album Ultimatum features the song "The Commander Thinks Aloud", a tribute to the final Columbia crew. [28]

The Eric Johnson instrumental "Columbia" from his 2005 album Bloom was written as a commemoration and tribute to the lives that were lost. Johnson said "I wanted to make it more of a positive message, a salute, a celebration rather than just concentrating on a few moments of tragedy, but instead the bigger picture of these brave people's lives." [29]

The graphic novel Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran was dedicated to the "lives, memories and legacies of the seven astronauts lost on space shuttle Columbia during mission STS-107."

Laurel Clark's wake up call on STS – 107 was Runrig's "Running to the Light". Laurel took The Stamping Ground CD into space with her and when the Shuttle exploded the CD was found back on Earth, and presented to the band. "Somewhere", the final track on the band's last studio album, The Story, ends with a recording of her voice introducing the song.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Space Shuttle Challenger was the second orbiter of NASA's space shuttle program to be put into service, after Columbia. Challenger was built by Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division, in Downey, California. Its maiden flight, STS-6, began on April 4, 1983. The orbiter was launched and landed nine times before breaking apart 73 seconds into its tenth mission, STS-51-L, on January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members, including a civilian school teacher. It was the first of two shuttles to be destroyed in flight, the other being Columbia, in 2003. The accident led to a two-and-a-half-year grounding of the shuttle fleet; flights resumed in 1988, with STS-26 flown by Discovery. Challenger was replaced by Endeavour, which was built from structural spares ordered by NASA in the construction contracts for Discovery and Atlantis.

Space Shuttle <i>Atlantis</i> Space shuttle orbiter

Space Shuttle Atlantis is a Space Shuttle orbiter vehicle belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the spaceflight and space exploration agency of the United States. Constructed by the Rockwell International company in Southern California and delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Eastern Florida in April 1985, Atlantis is the fourth operational and the second-to-last Space Shuttle built. Its maiden flight was STS-51-J from 3 to 7 October 1985.

Space Shuttle program United States governments manned launch vehicle program, administered by NASA from 1972 to 2011

The Space Shuttle program was the fourth human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which accomplished routine transportation for Earth-to-orbit crew and cargo from 1981 to 2011. Its official name, Space Transportation System (STS), was taken from a 1969 plan for a system of reusable spacecraft of which it was the only item funded for development.

STS-107 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia

STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 16, 2003 and during its 15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds in orbit conducted a multitude of international scientific experiments.

STS-61-B human spaceflight

STS-61-B was NASA's 23rd Space Shuttle mission, and its second using Space Shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 26 November 1985. During STS-61-B, the shuttle crew deployed three communications satellites, and tested techniques of constructing structures in orbit. Atlantis landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 16:33 EST on 3 December 1985, after 6 days and 21 hours in orbit.

STS-27 human spaceflight

STS-27 was the 27th NASA Space Shuttle mission, and the third flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Launching on 2 December 1988 on a four-day mission, it was the second shuttle flight after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of January 1986. STS-27 carried a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense, ultimately determined to be a Lacrosse surveillance satellite. The vessel's heat shielding was substantially damaged during lift-off, impacting the right wing, and crew members thought that they would die during reentry. This was a situation that was similar to the one that would prove fatal 15 years later on STS-107, but compared to the damage that Columbia had sustained on STS-107, despite Atlantis experience more extensive damage than Columbia had sustained, the damage was over less critical areas and the missing tile was over an antenna which gave extra protection to the wing. The mission landed successfully, although intense heat damage needed to be repaired.

STS-30 human spaceflight

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STS-28 human spaceflight

STS-28 was the 30th NASA Space Shuttle mission, the fourth shuttle mission dedicated to United States Department of Defense purposes, and the eighth flight of Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission launched on 8 August 1989 and traveled 2.1 million miles during 81 orbits of the Earth, before landing on runway 17 of Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 13 August. STS-28 was also Columbia's first flight since January 1986, when it had flown STS-61-C, the mission directly preceding the Challenger disaster of STS-51-L. The mission details of STS-28 are classified, but the payload is widely believed to have been the first SDS-2 communications satellite. The altitude of the mission was between 295 kilometers (183 mi) and 307 kilometers (191 mi).

STS-79 human spaceflight

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STS-114 human spaceflight

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STS-109 human spaceflight

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STS-115 human spaceflight

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STS-117 human spaceflight

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STS-3xx

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NASA Astronaut Group 16 Wikimedia list article

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STS-135 135th and final mission of the American Space Shuttle program

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