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.[1]

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 was similar to that Atlantis had sustained back in 1988 during STS-27, the second mission after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. However, the damage on STS-27 occurred at a spot that had more robust metal, and that mission survived the re-entry.

Close-up STS-107 Launch - GPN-2003-00080
Final launch of Columbia
Mission typeMicrogravity research
COSPAR ID2003-003A
SATCAT no.27647
Mission duration15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds
Distance travelled6,600,000 miles (10,600,000 km)
Orbits completed255
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftSpace Shuttle Columbia
Launch mass263,706 pounds (119,615 kg)
Landing mass232,793 pounds (105,593 kg) (expected)
Payload mass32,084 pounds (14,553 kg)
Crew size7
MembersRick D. Husband
William C. McCool
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Michael P. Anderson
Laurel B. Clark
Ilan Ramon
Start of mission
Launch dateJanuary 16, 2003 15:39:00 UTC
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Decay dateFebruary 1, 2003, 13:59:32 UTC
Disintegrated during reentry
Landing siteKennedy SLF Runway 33 (planned)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee170 miles (270 km)
Apogee177 miles (285 km)
Inclination39.0 degrees
Period90.1 minutes
STS-107 Flight Insignia
Crew of STS-107, official photo

Rear (L-R): David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon;
Front (L-R): Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool

Mission highlights

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.

One of the experiments, a video taken to study atmospheric dust, may have detected a new atmospheric phenomenon, dubbed a "TIGER" (Transient Ionospheric Glow Emission in Red).[2]

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.[3]

An Australian experiment, conducted by students from Glen Waverley Secondary College, was designed to test the reaction of zero gravity on the web formation of the Garden Orb Spider.[4]

Major experiments

Examples of some of the experiments and investigations on the mission.[5]


  • 9 commercial payloads with 21 investigations,
  • 4 payloads for the European Space Agency with 14 investigations
  • 1 payload for ISS Risk Mitigation
  • 18 payloads NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR) with 23 investigations

In the payload bay attached to RDM:[5]

  • Combined Two-Phase Loop Experiment (COM2PLEX),
  • Miniature Satellite Threat Reporting System (MSTRS)
  • Star Navigation (STARNAV).


  • Critical Viscosity of Xenon- 2 (CVX-2)
  • Low Power Transceiver (LPT)
  • Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX)
  • Space Experiment Module (SEM- 14)
  • Solar Constant Experiment-3 (SOLCON-3)
  • Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE-2)

Additional payloads[5]

  • Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local Exhaust Experiment (SIMPLEX)
  • Ram Burn Observation (RAMBO).

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.[5] Some of the experiments were also found on the ground.[5]

Unsuccessful re-entry

Columbia's Main Engine Powerheads - GPN-2003-00076
Part of one of Columbia's main engines later recovered.

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 [6]

Columbia began re-entry as planned, but the heat shield was compromised due to damage sustained during the initial ascent. The heat of re-entry was free to spread into the damaged portion of the orbiter, ultimately causing its disintegration and the loss of all hands.

The accident triggered a 7-month investigation and a search for debris, and over 85,000 pieces were collected over the course of the initial investigation.[6] This amounted to roughly 38 percent of the orbiter vehicle.[6]


Position Astronaut
Commander United States Rick D. Husband, USAF
Second and last spaceflight
Pilot United States William C. McCool, USN
Only spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 United States David M. Brown, USN
Only spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 United States Kalpana Chawla
Second and last spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 United States Michael P. Anderson, USAF
Second and last spaceflight
Mission Specialist 4 United States Laurel B. Clark, USN
Only spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 Israel Ilan Ramon, IAF
Only spaceflight


STS-107 Robbins Medallion

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.[7] 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.[8]


Launch video.

Close-up STS-107 Launch - GPN-2003-00080

Launch of STS-107 from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.


Mission STS-107 crew in bunk beds on the middeck of the Space Shuttle.

STS-107 Cockpit Video 3

Reentry video frame.


View of the atmosphere and of the Moon.

Mount Fuji from space (shuttle mission)

A view of Mount Fuji and the surrounding area from Columbia

See also


  1. ^ "HSF - STS-107 Science". NASA. 30 May 2003. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Columbia crew saw new atmospheric phenomenon". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  3. ^ Brown, Irene (27 January 2003). "Israeli astronaut busy up in space". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on 30 November 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  4. ^ "Australian space spiders perish". 2 February 2003. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g KSC, Lynda Warnock:. "NASA - STS-107". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b c KSC, Lynda Warnock:. "NASA - STS-107". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Space Shuttle – STS-107". 16 January 2003. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Constellation Columba". Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2012.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


  • William H. Starbuck, Moshe Farjoun (Eds.): Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster. Blackwell, Malden 2005, ISBN 140513108X.

External links

Astrotech Corporation

Astrotech Corporation, formerly Spacehab Inc., is a technology incubator headquartered in Austin, Texas. Astrotech uses technology sourced internally and from research institutions, government laboratories, and universities to fund, manage and sell start-up companies.

Astrotech Corporation's subsidiaries provide commercial products and services to NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, national space agencies, and global commercial customers.

Columbia Accident Investigation Board

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) was convened by NASA to investigate the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-107 upon atmospheric re-entry on February 1, 2003. The panel determined that the accident was caused by foam insulation breaking off from the external fuel tank, forming debris which damaged the orbiter's wing; and that the problem of "debris shedding" was well known but considered "acceptable" by management. The panel also recommended changes that should be made to increase the safety of future shuttle flights. The CAIB released its final report on August 26, 2003.

Congressional Space Medal of Honor

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by the United States Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his or her duties has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind." It is awarded by the President of the United States in Congress's name on recommendations from the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The award is a separate decoration from the Medal of Honor, which is a military award for extreme bravery and gallantry in combat.

Although the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a civilian award of the United States government, it is authorized as a military decoration for display on U.S. military uniforms due to the prestige of the decoration. In such cases, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is worn as a ribbon following all United States Armed Forces decorations.

To be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, an astronaut must perform feats of extraordinary accomplishment while participating in space flight under the authority of NASA. Typically, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is awarded for scientific discoveries or actions of tremendous benefit to mankind. The decoration may also be awarded for extreme bravery during a space emergency or in preventing a major space disaster. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor may also be presented posthumously to those astronauts who die while performing a US space mission; and as of 2019, all 17 astronauts killed on US missions have been awarded the medal.

President George W. Bush presented the most awards of the CSMOH, with 16 (of which 14 were posthumous for the two destroyed space shuttle flights, thus setting the standard for all astronauts killed in the line of duty receiving the award). The 11-year 8-month period from 1981 to 1993 was the longest gap between awards since its inception in 1978 until the current 13-year hiatus ongoing since April 2006.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter – 6 presentations

U.S. President Ronald Reagan – 1 presentation

U.S. President George H. W. Bush – 1 presentation

U.S. President Bill Clinton – 4 presentations

U.S. President George W. Bush – 16 presentations

David M. Brown

David McDowell Brown (April 16, 1956 – February 1, 2003) was a United States Navy captain and a NASA astronaut. He died on his first spaceflight, when the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrated during orbital reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Brown became an astronaut in 1996, but had not served on a space mission prior to the Columbia disaster. Brown was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Freestar experiment

FREESTAR, which stands for Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science Technology Applications and Research, was a payload of six separate experiments on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

It was mounted on a crossbay Hitchhiker Multipurpose Equipment Support Structure in the shuttle's payload bay during the STS-107 flight, which ended with the disintegration of Columbia during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Although data was lost in the re-entry, much of the data collected while in space, such as that from MEIDEX, had already been transmitted to ground stations.

Hitchhiker Program

The Hitchhiker Program (HH) was a NASA program established in 1984 and administered by the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The program was designed to allow low-cost and quick reactive experiments to be placed on board the Space Shuttle. The program was discontinued after the Space Shuttle Columbia accident of STS-107.

Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon (Hebrew: אילן רמון, pronounced [iˈlan raˈmon], born Ilan Wolferman; June 20, 1954 – February 1, 2003) was an Israeli fighter pilot and later the first and only Israeli astronaut.

Ramon was the space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of Columbia, in which he and six other crew members were killed in the re-entry accident. At 48, he was the oldest member of the crew. Ramon is the only foreign recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which he was awarded posthumously.

Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla (March 17, 1962 – February 1, 2003) was an American astronaut, engineer, and the first woman of Indian descent to go to space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the spacecraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several streets, universities and institutions have been named in her honor. The late astronaut is recognized as a national hero in India.

Laurel Clark

Laurel Blair Salton Clark (March 10, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was an American medical doctor, United States Navy Captain, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle mission specialist. Clark died along with her six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

List of astronauts by name

This is an alphabetical list of astronauts, people selected to train for a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft.

For a list of everyone who has flown in space, see List of space travelers by name.

More than 560 people have been trained as astronauts. Until recently, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. However, with the advent of suborbital flight starting with privately funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial astronaut.

While the term astronaut is sometimes applied to anyone who trains for travels into space—including scientists, politicians, journalists, and tourists—this article lists only professional astronauts, those who have been selected to train professionally. This includes national space programs, industry and commercial space programs which train and/or hire their own professional astronauts.

Names in italic are astronauts who have left Low Earth orbit, names in bold are astronauts who have walked on the moon. The flags indicate the astronaut's primary citizenship during his or her time as an astronaut. The symbol identifies female astronauts.

NASA Astronaut Group 15

NASA Astronaut Group 15 ("The Flying Escargot") was a group of 23 astronauts selected in 1994. The group name for these astronaut trainees was originally Slugs because no group was convened the previous year and thus the group was slow in arriving. Group members adopted The Flying Escargot as their moniker, possibly in reference to two members of the group being from France, or in reference to the famous "flying escargot" scene in the movie Pretty Woman. The group featured ten pilots, nine mission specialists, and four international mission specialist trainees.

Rick Husband

Rick Douglas Husband (July 12, 1957 – February 1, 2003) (Colonel, USAF) was an American astronaut and fighter pilot. He traveled into space twice: as Pilot of STS-96 and Commander of STS-107. He and the rest of the crew of STS-107 were killed when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Husband is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.


STS-109 (SM3B) was a Space Shuttle mission that launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 1 March 2002. It was the 108th mission of the Space Shuttle program, the 27th flight of the orbiter Columbia and the fourth servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. It was also the last successful mission of the orbiter Columbia before the ill-fated STS-107 mission, which culminated in the Columbia disaster.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was placed in orbit during mission STS-31 on 25 April 1990. Initially designed to operate for 15 years, plans for periodic service and refurbishment were incorporated into its mission from the start. After the successful completion of the second planned service mission (SM2) by the crew of STS-82 in February 1997, three of HST's six gyroscopes failed. NASA decided to split the third planned service mission into two parts, SM3A and SM3B. A fifth and final servicing mission, STS-125 (SM4) launched on 11 May 2009. The work performed during SM4 is expected to keep HST in operation through 2014.


STS-112 (ISS assembly flight 9A) was an 11-day space shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) flown by Space Shuttle Atlantis. Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched on 7 October 2002 at 19:45 UTC from the Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B to deliver the 28,000 pound Starboard 1 (S1) truss segment to the Space Station. Ending a 4.5-million-mile journey, Atlantis landed at 15:44 UTC on 18 October 2002 on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

During the launch, the ET bipod ramp shed a chunk of foam that caused a dent ~4" wide and 3" deep into the metal SRB-ET Attach Ring near the bottom of the left SRB. Prior to the next mission (STS-113), an upper-level decision was made at NASA to continue with launches as scheduled. The launch subsequent to that was the ill-fated STS-107.Space shuttle Atlantis had been scheduled to visit the International Space Station (ISS) again on STS-114 mission in March 2003; however, due to the loss of Columbia, all space shuttles, including Atlantis, were temporarily grounded. Due to rescheduling of missions, Atlantis did not fly again until STS-115 on 9 September 2006.


STS-27 was the 27th NASA Space Shuttle mission, and the third flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Launching on 2 December 1988 on a four-day mission, it was the second shuttle flight after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of January 1986. STS-27 carried a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense, ultimately determined to be a Lacrosse surveillance satellite. The vessel's heat shielding was substantially damaged during lift-off, impacting the right wing, and crew members thought that they would die during reentry. This was a situation that was similar to the one that would prove fatal 15 years later on STS-107, but compared to the damage that Columbia had sustained on STS-107, despite Atlantis experiencing more extensive damage than Columbia had sustained, the damage was over less critical areas and the missing tile was over an antenna which gave extra protection to the wing. The mission landed successfully, although intense heat damage needed to be repaired.

Space Shuttle Columbia

Space Shuttle Columbia (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-102) was the first space-rated orbiter in NASA's Space Shuttle fleet. It launched for the first time on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981, the first flight of the Space Shuttle program. Serving for over 22 years, it completed 27 missions before disintegrating during re-entry near the end of its 28th mission, STS-107 on February 1, 2003, resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members.

Space Shuttle Columbia disaster

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. The disaster was the second fatal accident in the Space Shuttle program after Challenger, which broke apart and killed the seven-member crew 73 seconds after liftoff in 1986.

During the launch of STS-107, Columbia's 28th mission, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left wing of the orbiter. A few previous shuttle launches had seen damage ranging from minor to nearly catastrophic from foam shedding, but some engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was more serious. NASA managers limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the problem if it had been confirmed. When Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate the heat shield and destroy the internal wing structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.After the disaster, Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years, as they had been after the Challenger disaster. Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State Space Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and 41 months for crew rotation until STS-121.

Several technical and organizational changes were made, including adding a thorough on-orbit inspection to determine how well the shuttle's thermal protection system had endured the ascent, and keeping a designated rescue mission ready in case irreparable damage was found. Except for one final mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, subsequent shuttle missions were flown only to the ISS so that the crew could use it as a haven in case damage to the orbiter prevented safe reentry.

William C. McCool

William Cameron "Willie" McCool (September 23, 1961 – February 1, 2003), (Cmdr, USN), was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut, who was the pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-107. He and the rest of the crew of STS-107 were killed when Columbia disintegrated during re-entry into the atmosphere. He was the youngest male member of the crew. McCool was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

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