The space shuttle Columbia launched for the last time 20 years ago on a mission that ended in tragedy


Space shuttle Columbia

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

It was a chilly Thursday morning at Cape Canaveral as the nation’s first space shuttle was about to make its last trip into space.

The space shuttle Columbia lifted off at 10:39 a.m. ET on January 16, 2003, from Launch Pad 39-A of the Kennedy Space Center with a crew of seven.

“God bless us with a beautiful day here,” Mission Commander Rick Husband said over the radio shortly before liftoff. “We appreciate all the hard work everyone has put into this, and we’re ready to go.”

The pair crewed shuttle pilots William McCall, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was the first Israeli to go into space.

All seven died 16 days later when the shuttle broke up on re-entry, the result of a piece of insulation foam that had separated from the external fuel tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing during launch. The damage was like fatal scorching heat It would be the ship’s demise as it streaked across the sky over Texas.

Columbia’s final mission was the orbiter’s 28th mission, the 113th mission to NASA Shuttle program. It was the first of five space shuttles that launched on its first mission on April 12, 1981, with the late John Young aboard as commander alongside pilot Robert Crippen.

Over the course of 22 years, Columbia has traveled more than 125 million miles and orbited Earth 4,808 times while in space for more than 300 days.

She has flown 160 astronauts over her career including Shannon Lucid, Story Musgrave, Eileen Collins, Charles Bolden and Senator Bill Nelson.

the Tragedy It is one of three major events in NASA’s history, all of which occur in the early part of the year. Seven deaths aboard Columbia, seven from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, the deaths of three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967, and others lost in the pursuit of space, will be honored on NASA Memorial Day later this month.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will hold a party on January 26 with events starting at 10 a.m.

2023 Orlando Sentinel.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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