'To Make Life as Good as Possible': 25 Years Since STS-50 Stretched the Space Shuttle

A quarter-century ago, STS-50 set a new record for the longest Space Shuttle mission at that time. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Twenty-five years ago, next week, the crew of Columbia roared into orbit to begin the longest shuttle mission ever attempted at that time. Equipped with the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) […]

'A Mirror-Image Flight': 20 Years Since Columbia's Landing-to-Launch Record (Part 2)

With the reprioritization of mission objectives, the around-the-clock Spacelab operations in the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) changed dramatically. The astronauts even worked by torchlight at times to maintain power levels below critical levels. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, Space Shuttle Columbia rocketed into orbit for what should have been an […]

'Once-In-A-Career Opportunity': 20 Years Since Columbia's Landing-to-Launch Record (Part 1)

After the shortest operational flight in the Space Shuttle Program, Columbia touches down at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on 8 April 1997. Her STS-83 mission had lasted just a few minutes shy of four full days in space. Photo Credit: NASA

Eighty-four days. A mere 12 weeks on Earth, 84 […]

'Just Unreal What It Had Done': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 2)

Like a flying brick, Columbia descends towards White Sands on 30 March 1982. This view was acquired from one of the NASA T-38 jets, flying chase that morning. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years ago, in the final week of March 1982, Commander Jack Lousma and Pilot Gordon Fullerton flew Space Shuttle Columbia on […]

'Not a Good Place to Land': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 1)

Columbia touches down at the mountain-ringed White Sands site in New Mexico on 30 March 1982. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost four decades ago, and two years ahead of the first Space Shuttle launch, NASA took the unusual step of selecting a great white blotch of compacted salt and gypsum in New Mexico’s Tularosa […]

'Masterful Performances': 15 Years Since Columbia's Last Fully Successful Mission (Part 2)

Columbia roars into the pre-dawn darkness on 1 March 2002, beginning her final wholly-successful mission. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Rising into the pre-dawn darkness on 1 March 2002—15 years ago, next week—Space Shuttle Columbia’s 27th mission into low-Earth orbit would achieve, literally, the greatest heights of her storied career. In more […]

'That Your Number Hadn't Come Up': 15 Years Since Columbia's Last Fully Successful Mission (Part 1)

The Hubble Space Telescope appears to “fly” over Earth as it is photographed during STS-109. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifteen years ago, next week, Columbia roared into orbit on her final wholly-successful mission, STS-109. It was the 27th flight of a vehicle which had ushered in the dawn of the Space Shuttle era, back […]

'Lock the Doors': Remembering Columbia's Final Mission (Part 2)

As evidenced by the clock on the main screen at 14:15:05 GMT (9:15:05 am EST), this view of a tense Mission Control was acquired a quarter of an hour after the first sign of trouble…and a minute ahead of Columbia’s expected landing. By now, everyone was aware that all hope was gone and […]

'So Thin and Fragile': Remembering Columbia's Final Mission (Part 1)

The dual-shift nature of STS-107 required the inclusion of sleep stations in Columbia’s middeck. In this image, Red Team members Laurel Clark, Rick Husband and Kalpana Chawla peek out of their bunks. Photo Credit: NASA

When Columbia’s payload bay doors opened at around midday EST on 16 January 2003—a few hours after NASA’s […]

A Flight of Changes: 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-80 (Part 2)

Upon touchdown on 7 December 1996, Columbia and her STS-80 crew set an empirical record for the longest single mission of the Space Shuttle Program. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

When the crew of STS-80—launched 20 years ago, this week—were assigned to their mission in January 1996, theirs was expected to be […]