Space Shuttle orbiter Columbia landing at Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle orbiter Columbia landing at Kennedy Space Center.

Columbia has been the name of several different vehicles:


1. Space Shuttle Orbiter involved in the first orbital Shuttle mission (STS-1) on April 12, 1981. Milestones of the Orbiter Columbia, aside from the first launch and test mission of a Shuttle (STS-1), include the first Department of Defense payload carried aboard a Shuttle (STS-4), the first operational mission of a Shuttle (STS-5), the first satellites deployed from a Shuttle (STS-5), and the first flight of Spacelab (STS-9). Columbia and its crew of seven were lost during re-entry on February 1, 2003.


A little known fact is that for its first four launches, Columbia was fitted with ejection seats modified from the ones in the SR-71 Blackbird. NASA decided to take the seats out since they were only useful for a short window during launch and landing, and the three or four crew members on the middeck of the shuttle wouldn't get to use them anyway.


2. Nickname of the Apollo 11 Command Module.


3. American commercial sloop based at Boston Harbor. On May 11, 1792, Captain Robert Gray and the crew of Columbia maneuvered past a dangerous sandbar at the mouth of a river, later named in honor of the sailing vessel, extending more than 1,600 km through what is today southeastern British Columbia, Washington state, and Oregon. Gray and his crew went on to complete the first American circumnavigation of the globe, carrying a cargo of otter skins to Canton, China and back to Boston. Other American sailing vessels have also been named Columbia, after Christopher Columbus, including a frigate launched in 1836 which became the first United States Navy ship to circle the globe.