After being constructed, the orbiter arrived at John F. Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 1979 to be prepared for its first launch. However, before its first mission three workers were killed and five injured during a ground test of the orbiter on March 19, 1981.
The first flight of Columbia was commanded by John Young (a space veteran from the Gemini and Apollo eras) and piloted by Robert Crippen[?] a rookie who had never been in space before, but who served as support crew for the Skylab missions and Apollo-Soyuz[?].
In 1983 Columbia launched the first mission (STS-9) with 6 astronauts, including the first non-American astronaut, Ulf Merbold, from Germany on a space shuttle. On January 12, 1986 Columbia took off with the first Hispanic-American[?] astronaut, Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz[?]. Another first was announced on March 5, 1998 when NASA named their choice of United States Air Force Lt. Col. Eileen Collins[?] as commander of a future Columbia mission making Collins the first woman commander of a space shuttle mission. On its final mission the craft was carrying the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon and the first astronaut of Indian birth, Kalpana Chawla. Other crew members on the final flight included Rick Husband (commander), Willie McCool (pilot), Michael P. Anderson, Laurel Clark, and David Brown.
On the morning of February 1, 2003, the shuttle re-entered the atmosphere after a 16-day scientific mission. NASA lost radio contact at about 9 a.m. EST, only minutes before the expected 09:16 landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Video recordings show the craft breaking up in flames over Texas, at an altitude of approximately 39 miles (63 km) and a speed of 12,500 mph (20,000 km/h).
See also: Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Date Designation 1981 April 12 STS-1 1981 November 12 STS-2 1982 March 22 STS-3 1982 June 27 STS-4 1982 November 11 STS-5 1983 November 28 STS-9 1986 January 12 STS-61-C[?] 1989 August 8 STS-28[?] 1990 January 9 STS-32[?] 1990 December 2 STS-35[?] 1991 June 5 STS-40[?] 1992 June 25 STS-50 1992 October 22 STS-52[?] 1993 April 26 STS-55[?] 1993 October 18 STS-58[?] 1994 March 4 STS-62[?] 1994 July 8 STS-65[?] 1995 October 20 STS-73[?] 1996 February 22 STS-75[?] 1996 June 20 STS-78[?] 1996 November 19 STS-80[?] 1997 April 4 STS-83[?] 1997 July 1 STS-94[?] 1997 November 19 STS-87[?] 1998 April 13 STS-90[?] 1999 July 23 STS-93[?] 2002 March 1 STS-109[?] 2003 January 16 STS-107
28 total flights