A NASA space shuttle that was used on 27 successful flights from 12 April 1981 to 1 March 2002. Known as OV-102 (for Orbiter Vehicle-102), it was NASA's oldest shuttle, being the first to fly into Earth orbit. Its flights included carrying the first science payload in November 1981, the first four-person crew in November 1982, the first six-person crew in November 1983, and the first to be commanded by a woman, Eileen Collins, in July 1999. On 1 February 2003, the vehicle broke up and burned on re-entry and the crew of seven died. The apparent cause was a hole in the heat shield of a wing, caused just after lift-off by foam insulation that had broken off.
Columbia was named after an 18th-century sloop from Boston, Massachusetts, that made the first American circumnavigation of the globe.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.