Mission objective

1. To perform scientific experiments in deep space at the ISS (International Space Station).
2. To perform microgravity experiment and research.
3. To perform some photographic task at the ISS.

Columbia space shuttle (STS-107) was the first orbiter in NASA space shuttle race. There were total of six orbiters for the flight (Columbia, Enterprise, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour). But sadly due to some accidental incidents in the flight history of Nasa, it has only three orbiter left. Columbia had served over 27 mission in the history of NASA space shuttle program. But sadly on 1st Feb 2003 at 9:00 EST, during the re-entry of Columbia to earth's atmosphere, the space shuttle broke up in the middle of the sky resulting in the death of all seven crew members.

All the six orbiters were manufactured by the Rockwell International. The Enterprise space shuttle was only used for the ground test activities. Endeavor space shuttle was manufactured to replace the Challenger space shuttle and was first launched in 1992. Space shuttle Endeavour completed its last flight on 1st June 2011, while space shuttle Atlantis completed its last flight on 21st July 2011.

Columbia STS-107 was launched on 16th Jan 2003 from Kennedy space center, Florida (U.S.A). Columbia STS-107 stayed total 16 days in space and the crew members performed eighty plus several scientific experiments. Also, a SPACEHAB research double module was carried on to the Columbia space shuttle payload to perform the experiments in space. Space shuttle Columbia STS-107 was crewed by total seven astronauts or crew members. They were Rick D. Husband, David M. Brown, Michael P. Anderson, William C. McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, Ilan Ramon. The STS-107 was also named as Female Orbiter because of the two female astronauts.

After few minutes of  Columbia STS-107 lift-off, one staff member of NASA team had noticed that an insulation foam from external fuel tank fell on the left wing of Columbia shuttle. After watching the lift-off footage, the staff members discussed the issue and they thought that it will not harm the shuttle in any condition. The shuttle lift-off was normal and it reached the International space station safely. The crew members performed all the experiments and by that time there was everything working normally.

On 1st Feb 2003, during the re-entry of Columbia shuttle into earth atmosphere, the left damaged wing slowly overheated and the high-temperature gaseous heat entered through the left wing hole. Columbia was still working normally from outside and inside. Also, the crew members were unknown of this huge issue. After few minutes the high-temperature gaseous heat broked the shuttle's left wing and the shuttle finally lost its control. At about 9:00 EST, the Columbia STS-107 caught fire, disintegrated and burns into flames in the middle of the earth's atmosphere over Texas. All the seven crew members lost their lives in this tragic disaster. During the Columbia flight into space, NASA had also planned to launch the Atlantis space shuttle to rescue Columbia crew members. But sadly it was in its development stage. It was not totally ready for the launch and hence the Atlantis launch was canceled.

The Columbia disaster was live telecasted on the television all over U.S.A and rest of the world. Nearly 84,000 pieces of shuttle's debris were collected from different location across northeast Texas and Louisiana. According to the NASA report, during the launch of the Columbia shuttle, an insulation foam piece from the external fuel tank broke off and struck the left wing of the shuttle. But at that time, the strike was not observed live. The impact of the collision was very powerful that it pierced the shuttle left wing resulting in damage to the Thermal protection system.

1st Feb 2003 resulted in a black day for NASA and soon all the space missions were stopped. NASA had also experienced the same accident in the year 1988 on Atlantis STS-27 mission. But luckily the shuttle survived the re-entry and safely landed on the runway.

A museum was constructed in Hemphill, Texas in memory and honor of all the seven crew members. The museum displays the journey and exploration of all Columbia missions including the most memorable Columbia STS-107.

Also see: SpaceX Journey


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