STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 16, 2003, and during its 15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds in orbit conducted a multitude of international scientific experiments.
An in-flight break up during reentry into the atmosphere on February 1 killed all seven crew members and disintegrated Columbia. Immediately after the disaster, NASA convened the Columbia Accident Investigation Board to determine the cause of the disintegration. The source of the failure was determined to have been caused by a piece of foam that broke off during launch and damaged the thermal protection system (reinforced carbon-carbon panels and thermal protection tiles) on the leading edge of the orbiter's left wing. During re-entry the damaged wing slowly overheated and came apart, eventually leading to loss of control and disintegration of the vehicle. The cockpit window frame is now exhibited in a memorial inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis Pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The damage to the thermal protection system on the wing had similarity to that sustained in 1988 during STS-27 (the second mission after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster). STS-27 commander Robert L. Gibson, when first seeing imagery of the extent of the damage thought to himself, "We are going to die." But the worst damage happened at a spot that had more robust metal, and unlike STS-107, that mission survived the entry.
Final launch of Columbia
|Mission type||Microgravity research|
|Mission duration||15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds|
|Distance travelled||6,600,000 miles (10,600,000 km)|
|Spacecraft||Space Shuttle Columbia|
|Launch mass||263,706 pounds (119,615 kg)|
|Landing mass||232,793 pounds (105,593 kg) (expected)|
|Payload mass||32,084 pounds (14,553 kg)|
Rick D. Husband|
William C. McCool
David M. Brown
Michael P. Anderson
Laurel B. Clark
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||January 16, 2003 15:39:00 UTC|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39A|
|End of mission|
February 1, 2003, 13:59:32 UTC|
Disintegrated during reentry
|Landing site||Kennedy SLF Runway 33 (planned)|
|Perigee||170 miles (270 km)|
|Apogee||177 miles (285 km)|
Rear (L-R): David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon;
Front (L-R): Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool
STS-107 carried the SPACEHAB Double Research Module on its inaugural flight, the Freestar experiment (mounted on a Hitchhiker Program rack), and the Extended Duration Orbiter pallet. SPACEHAB was first flown on STS 57.
On board Columbia was a copy of a drawing by Petr Ginz, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Vedem, who depicted what he imagined the Earth looked like from the Moon when he was a 14-year-old prisoner in the Terezín concentration camp. The copy was in the possession of Ilan Ramon and was lost in the disintegration. Ramon also traveled with a dollar bill received from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Examples of some of the experiments and investigations on the mission.
In SPACEHAB RDM:
In the payload bay attached to RDM:
Because much of the data was transmitted during the mission, there was still large return on the mission objectives even though it was lost on re-entry. Some of the experiments were also found on the ground.
KSC landing was planned for Feb. 1 after a 16-day mission, but Columbia and crew were lost during reentry over East Texas at about 9 a.m. EST, 16 minutes prior to the scheduled touchdown at KSC.— NASA 
The loss of the spacecraft and crew triggered a 7-month investigation and a search for debris, and over 85,000 pieces were collected over the course of the initial investigation. This amounted to roughly 38 percent of the orbiter vehicle.
|Commander|| Rick D. Husband, USAF|
Second and last spaceflight
|Pilot|| William C. McCool, USN|
|Mission Specialist 1|| David M. Brown, USN|
|Mission Specialist 2|| Kalpana Chawla|
Second and last spaceflight
|Mission Specialist 3|| Michael P. Anderson, USAF|
Second and last spaceflight
|Mission Specialist 4|| Laurel B. Clark, USN|
|Payload Specialist 1|| Ilan Ramon, IAF|
The central element of the patch is the microgravity symbol, µg, flowing into the rays of the astronaut symbol.
The mission inclination is portrayed by the 39 degree angle of the astronaut symbol to the Earth's horizon. The sunrise is representative of the numerous experiments that are the dawn of a new era for continued microgravity research on the International Space Station and beyond. The breadth of science and the exploration of space is illustrated by the Earth and stars. The constellation Columba (the dove) was chosen to symbolize peace on Earth and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The seven stars also represent the mission crew members and honor the original astronauts who paved the way to make research in space possible. Six stars have five points, the seventh has six points like a Star of David, symbolizing the Israeli Space Agency's contributions to the mission.
An Israeli flag is adjacent to the name of Payload Specialist Ramon, who was the first Israeli in space. The crew insignia or 'patch' design was initiated by crew members Dr. Laurel Clark and Dr. Kalpana Chawla. First-time crew member Clark provided most of the design concepts as Chawla led the design of her maiden voyage STS-87 insignia. Clark also pointed out that the dove in the Columba constellation was mythologically connected to the explorers 'The Argonauts' who released the dove.