16 January 2003, 15:39:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. This would be her final flight.
81.7 seconds after launch, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, or 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing.
It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).
When Columbia re-entered on 1 February 2003, the damage would cause the shuttle to disintegrate. The entire crew would be lost.
2 December 1990, 06:49:00 UTC, T minus Zero: At 1:49 a.m. EST, Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was Columbia‘s 10th flight. STS-35 was a scientific mission, with the ASTRO-1 observatory.
The flight crew consisted of Mission Commander Vance D. Brand on his fourth and final space flight, and shuttle pilot Colonel Guy S. Gardner, U.S. Air Force, on his second. There were three Mission Specialists and two Payload Specialists: Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Ph.D., second space flight; John M. Lounge, third flight; Robert A.R. Parker, Ph.D., second flight; Samuel T. Durance, Ph.D., and Ronald A. Parise, Ph.D., were both on their first flights.
Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California at 05:54:08 UTC, 11 December 1990. The duration of the mission was 8 days, 23 hours, 5 minutes, 8 seconds.
28 November 1983, 16:00:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-9) lifted of from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Florida on its sixth space flight.
On board was the largest flight crew for a manned space mission up to that time: Mission Commander John W. Young (Captain, United States Navy, Retired), Pilot; Lieutenant Colonel Brewster H. Shaw, Jr., United States Air Force; Mission Specialists Owen K. Garriott, Ph.D., and Robert A.R. Parker, Ph.D.; and Payload Specialists Ulf Dietrich Merbold, Dr. rer. nat, of the European Space Agency (ESA); and Lieutenant Colonel Byron K. Lichtenberg, D.Sc., USAF (Massachusetts Air National Guard).
Columbia carried the NASA/ESA Spacelab module in the cargo bay. The mission was primarily to carry out 72 scientific experiments in astronomy, physics, biology, as well as to make observations of the Earth.
Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California at 22:47:24 UTC (3:37 a.m., PST), 8 December 1983. At 10 days, 7 hours, 47 minutes, 24 seconds, STS-9 was the longest shuttle mission up to that time.
19 November 1997, 19:46:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-87. This was the 88th flight of the space shuttle program, and the 24th flight for Columbia.
The flight crew was led by mission commander, Colonel Kevin R. Kregel, U.S. Air Force, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Colonel Steven W. Lindsey, U.S. Air Force, on his first. Mission Specialist Captain Winston E. Scott, U.S. Navy, was on his second flight; Kalpana Chwala, Ph.D., was on her first; Takao Doi, Ph.D., Japanese Aerospace Explosration Agency (JAXA), was on his first; Payload Specialist Colonel Leonid K. Kandeniuk, Ukraine Air Force, and National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU), was on his only flight.
STS-87 carried a number of scientific research experiments which required Captain Scott and Doctor Doi to perform two “space walks”, the first EVAs conducted from Columbia.
Columbia landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), Kennedy Space Center, at 12:20 UTC, 5 December 1997. The duration of the mission was 15 days, 16 hours, 35 minutes, 01 seconds.
19 November 1996, 19:55:47 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-80. The veteran flight crew was led by mission commander, Captain Kenneth D. Cockrell, U.S. Navy, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Captain Kent V. Rominger, U.S. Navy, on his second. Mission Specialist Story Musgrave, M.D., was on his sixth flight; Thomas D. Jones, Ph.D., (formerly Captain, USAF, a B-52 aircraft commander) was on his third; Tamara E. Jernigan, Ph.D. was on her fourth.
On STS-80, Story Musgrave became the only person to have flown on all five space shuttles. At 61, he was the oldest person to have flown into space at the time.
STS-80 was the longest mission of any space shuttle flight, with a duration of 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, 18 seconds. Columbia landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at Kennedy Space Center, 11:49:05 UTC, 7 December 1996.