Space Shuttle Columbia

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Space Shuttle Columbia (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-102) was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew members were killed. Following an independent investigation into the cause of the accident, NASA decided to retire the Shuttle orbiter fleet in 2010 in favor of the Constellation program and its manned Orion spacecraft.



Construction began on Columbia in 1975 at Rockwell International's (formerly North American Aviation/North American Rockwell, now Boeing North America) principal assembly facility in Palmdale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Columbia was named after the Boston-based sloop Columbia captained by Robert Gray, who in the 1790s explored the Pacific Northwest (including going upstream on its namesake river between Washington and Oregon) and which 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.[2] After construction, the orbiter arrived at Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 1979, to prepare for its first launch. On March 19, 1981, during preparations for a ground test, two workers were asphyxiated while working in Columbia's nitrogen-purged aft engine compartment, resulting in their deaths.[3]

The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) was commanded by John Young, a Gemini and Apollo veteran 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.

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