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.
4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to assemble the Unity docking connector module (Node 1) of the International Space Station.
The Mission Commander of STS 88 was Colonel Robert Donald Cabana, United States Marine Corps, on his fourth (and final) space flight. The Pilot was Colonel Frederick Wilford Sturcklow, U.S. Marine Corps, on his first space flight. There were four Mission Specialists: Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; Major Nancy Jane Currie, U.S. Army, on her third space flight; James Hansen Newman, Ph.D., on his third flight; and Sergei Konstantinovick Krikalev (Серге́й Константинович Крикалёв), a Cosmonaut-Researcher for NPO Energia, on his fourth of six space flights.
The first segment of the space station was the Functional Cargo Block, known as Zarya (Заря́), which had been placed in Earth orbit two weeks earlier, 20 November 1998, by a Proton-K three-stage rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Node 1 provided a docking station for arriving space craft. Adaptor points for additional modules were built into the node’s circumference. Endeavour carried Node 1 in its cargo bay. It was maneuvered into position and installed using the shuttle’s robotic arm, operated by Major Currie.
Endeavour returned to Earth at the Shuttle Landing Facitity, Kennedy Space Center, at 10:53:29 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 December 1998 (03:53, 16 December 1998, UTC). The total duration of Mission STS-88 was 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes, 47 seconds.
2 December 1993, 09:27:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit. This was Endeavour‘s fifth flight.
The flight crew were Mission Commander Colonel Richard O. Covey, United States Air Force, on his fourth space flight, with shuttle pilot Captain Kenneth D. Bowersox, U.S. Navy, on his second flight. Mission Specialist Kathryn C. Thornton, Ph.D., on her third space flight; Professor Claude Nicollier, Captain, Schweizer Luftwaffe, (Swiss Air Force) and European Space Agency, on his second space flight; Jeffrey A. Hoffman, fourth flight, F. Story Musgrave, M.D., fifth space flight; and Thomas D. Akers, third space flight.
During this flight there were five EVAs (“space walks”) conducted to service and upgrade Hubble. EVAs 1, 3 and 5 were performed by Musgrave and Hoffman, while 2 and 4 were carried out by Thornton and Akers. The duration of these EVAs were between 6 hours, 36 minutes and 7 hours, 54 minutes.
Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), Kennedy Space Center, at 05:25:33 UTC, 13 December 1993. The duration of the mission was 10 days, 19 hours, 58 minutes, 37 seconds.
2 December 1992, 13:24:00 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a classified Satellite Data System-2 military communications satellite, USA-89. This satellite also included the Heritage (Radiant Agate) infrared early warning system for detection of ballistic missile launches. Several other satellites and scientific experiments were also carried.
This was Discovery‘s 15th flight.
The Mission Commander was Captain David M. Walker, United States Navy, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Colonel Robert D. Cabana, U. S. Marine Corps, on his second. Three Mission Specialists were aboard: Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Ph.D., U.S. Air Force on his fourth and final space flight; Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Clifford, U.S. Army, first flight; Colonel James S. Voss, U.S. Army, second flight.
Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California at 20:43:17 UTC, 9 December 1992. The duration of the mission was 7 days, 7 hours, 19 minutes, 17 seconds.