NASA’s First Shuttle Into Space!

The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first built to go into space and finally launched with a two-man crew after extensive testing on April 12, 1981! Columbia had a distinguished career over 22 years completing 27 successful missions before, tragically, breaking up on reentry from its 28th mission on February 1st, 2003 killing all 7 crew members.


Interesting Facts About The Space Shuttle Columbia!

  • Construction began on Columbia in 1975 with the Orbiter finally delivered to Kennedy Space Center in March 1979 where it underwent additional fitting out and testing.
  • On account of Columbia being constructed years earlier than the other Orbiters, such as Endeavour, it was considerably heavier (about 3,600 kgs heavier) mainly due to later shuttles benefiting from advances in technology.
  • The first flight, STS-1, was commanded by John Young, a veteran astronaut from the earlier Gemini and Apollo programs - he even walked on the Moon during Apollo 16!
  • The first flight of Columbia lasted 2 days with the shuttle orbiting the Earth 36 times before successfully reentering the atmosphere before gliding and landing on a dry lake bed at Edwards Airforce Base.
  • STS-1 and STS-2 flown by Columbia were the only two shuttle missions to fly with a painted External fuel Tank (white). Future missions flew with the iconic orange tank to save the weight of the paint!
  • The launch of mission STS-61C took aloft the first sitting member of the US House of Representatives into space.
  • Columbia was the used in 1999 to launch the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
  • The Orbiters final successful mission, STS-109, was the 4th servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • The Columbia is Lost; during the launch of what would be Columbia’s final mission, STS-107, a block of insulating foam came loose off the External Tank and struck the leading edge of the left wing. Unknown to the crew or NASA ground control the foam shattered a hole in the wing so when two weeks later, after the crew's science mission and during reentry, hot plasma gases entered the Orbiters wing causing it to fail. This resulted in the disintegration of the vehicle as it lost control and began tumbling and burning up. All 7 crew members on board died.
  • Over 22 years Columbia flew 28 missions in total, amassing over 300 days in space with 4,808 orbits and a total distance of 125,204,911 miles (201,497,772 km) up until STS-107 which was her last.
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