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The Shuttle Columbia

 
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Columbia, returned to orbit fresh from two years of work that left it safer and more capable than ever before (its previous flight was in July of 1999).

Columbia launched March 1 at 6:22 a.m. EST on mission STS-109. The mission was dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the Hubble Space Telescope, the fourth such flight since the telescope's launch in 1990.
 launch video . . . . . . . . . . . . lo 280 kb    hi 1.1 mb    

Columbia, is the first and oldest orbiter in the shuttle fleet. It was named after the Boston based seaship captained by American Robert Gray in the late 1700's. Gray led his seafairing ship, "Columbia" and its crew on the first American circumnavigation of the globe.

The spaceship Columbia has continued the pioneering legacy of its forebears, becoming the first Space Shuttle to fly into Earth orbit in 1981. Four sister ships joined the fleet over the next 10 years: Challenger, arriving in 1982 but destroyed four years later; Discovery, 1983; Atlantis, 1985; and Endeavour, built as a replacement for Challenger, 1991.

Columbia is commonly refered to as Orbiter Vehicle-102 or OV-102. It was weight at 158,289 lbs at rollout and 178,000 lbs with main engines installed.

Columbia has undergone some extensive reworking and upgrading in the past two years.

"Returning Columbia to orbit to improve the Hubble Space Telescope is a fitting start to what will be a busy and vital year in space." said Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore. "We have more spacewalks planned in the next 12 months than we have ever done in a single year. We are going to fly diverse missions, dedicated to satellite maintenance, research and Space Station assembly, showcasing capabilities unique in the world. The shuttle team has done a great job in preparing for this mission."

A maintenance and upgrade period completed in 2001 installed a new "glass cockpit" in Columbia, increased its cargo capacity, strengthened its crew cabin and enhanced the protection of its cooling system from orbital debris. Columbia was the second of NASA's four Space Shuttles to be fitted with the new cockpit.

Columbia's new cockpit replaced mechanical instruments with 11 full- color, flat-panel displays. The new cockpit is lighter, uses less electricity and sets the stage for the next generation of improvements - - a "smart cockpit" under development that will make the cabin even more user-friendly.

Technicians also performed comprehensive inspections of the Space Shuttle's more than 200 miles of electrical wiring, installing protection to prevent future damage in high-traffic areas. Intensive structural inspection of Columbia also was performed as well as 133 modifications and upgrades.

Columbia's flight ended with landing back at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida March 12. STS-109 marks the 27th mission for Columbia and the 108th in Shuttle program history.

 

 
Topgun Shuttle ::
Columbia rolls across the
grounds at dusk.
 
Standing Tall ::
Columbia stands ready at the launchpad for its journey.
 
Rattle and Hum::
Seven million pounds of rocket thrust propel Columbia off the ground.
 
Burning Bright ::
Columbia shoots past clouds on its way to orbit the earth.
 
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