What was the name of the first U.S. Space Shuttle to orbit the earth?
Answer: On this day in 1981, the space shuttle Columbia was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and became the first reusable manned spacecraft to travel into space. Piloted by astronauts Robert L. Crippen and John W. Young, the Columbia undertook a 54-hour space flight of 36 orbits before touching down at California’s Edwards Air Force Base. Over 22 years of service it completed 27 missions before disintegrating during re-entry near the end of its 28th mission, 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.
Date: 1 February 2003
Cause: Wing damage from debris
Number of deaths: 7
Result: Space Shuttle fleet was grounded for more than two years while safety measures were added, including procedures to deal with catastrophic cabin depressurization, better crew restraints, and an automated parachute system.