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History of Columbia
Question Board

Jonathan from Louisville, KY
Due to Columbia's increased weight compared to the other orbiters, was she harder or easier to land on final approach? If so, why?
Dave from Fair Play, SC
How would you characterize Columbia's legacy?
John from Ft. Wayne, IN
With the flight rate as low as it is, had any thought been given to retiring Columbia? It seems to me that OV-102 had earned its place alongside the Wright Flyer, and that perhaps it should not have remained operational longer than absolutely necessary.
Mark from Bolingbrook, Il
Sad what happened to Columbia, she was a favorite orbiter of mine for the past 15 years. I even built a model of her. My question is, when Columbia was in her OMDP in 1999-2001, did anyone think to remove the SILTS pod, as the experiment was only conducted once? Also, what about replacing the LRSI tiles surrounding the crew cabin with the blankets like her sisters currently have? Third, will there be a replacement orbiter for Columbia? If there is, what would be an appropriate name for the new orbiter?
Tom from Levittown, NY
I always thought that due to Columbia's increased weight, the payload it was capable of launching was not as great. If that's true, were any modifications done on Columbia for the STS-93 mission which launched the heaviest shuttle payload to date?
Brett from Jacksonville,FL
Did NASA ever consider mothballing Columbia?
John from Bloomfield, MI
On Columbia's first flight how did its launch and landing characteristics compare with your ground simulations/training? Do you think that first flight was possibly the ultimate aerospace flight test (unlike anything before or since)?
Tim from Gallagher
What is your favorite memory of the Columbia? By the way, it was an honor to meet you at the STS-65 landing of Columbia.
Thomas from Odessa, Texas
The past accident with the Space Shuttle Columbia was very tragic. Now that it has spaceflight (and all its hazards) back in the spotlight, people are wondering how to make it safer. As a result of the Columbia tragedy, will NASA plan in the future to attempt the RTLS (Return To Launch Site) maneuver with the space shuttle?
John McKenna from League City
Bob, We read about some surprises during the first Columbia mission. We understand that several diced tiles were missing on the OMS pod and that there were some elevon actuators that bent a bit from the slapback of SRB Ignition. Talk about that and how we corrected that for the second mission in Nov. 1981.
Eileen Smith from Webster, Texas
First I'd like to say it was thrilling to meet you and John Young at a landing party after STS-1. Can you give us some of your personal memories of that first flight of Columbia?
James Kelley from Cananduagia, NY
On the first launch, what was the anticipation like leading up to launch day? There where a couple of scrubs on this first mission - APU problem was one, I think, wasn't it?
Wes from Friendswood
You and John Young experienced the critical points of the shuttle flight profile before anyone else. Can you describe your thoughts as the orbiter rocked forward and back at main engine ignition, any visual cues seen through the windows at SRB separation two minutes into the flight, the feeling of being thrown forward at MECO eight and a half minutes into flight, and Entry Interface and the glow of re-entry? How exciting to experience these for the first time they were experienced by anyone!
Ron Lerdal from Las Cruces
Based on your experience with Columbia and advances in avionics technology, are we ready to implement a full auto land system to guide returning spacecraft landing all the way to wheel stop?
Lakshmanapathi from Dindigul, India
I am very sorry for Columbia and her crew. Can I have the last ten or 15 minutes details of her flight just before disintegration?
Rap from Friendswood
Of all the specific risks and possibilities on STS-1, which one gave you the most anxiety or required your most intense attention or training and why?
James from Goose Creek
I am curious about what it was like to fly an untested space vehicle that was not flight tested like other systems. I understand that Columbia used to have ejection seats; what phases of flight could those be used in, and will there be a new Columbia anytime soon? We have had an Apollo Command Console named Columbia, we even have a nuclear powered submarine named Columbia. It would be a pity to see the name Columbia be retired from the NASA registry.
Pete from Canada
Columbia bringing us up to 17 deaths in three separate incidents, what will the agency do to get the shuttle back into reduced gravity orbit? I am willing to watch future shuttle missions on NASA Web Cast and I do support a go for return to orbit after such devastation.
Aren from Vermont
What is your fondest memory from your time with NASA?
John from Port Orange
Within 45 minutes of Columbia missing - on TV - Space engineer, said, No don't look at foam, see the solid ice breaking up, damaging wing? Why hasn't this been discovered?
Ron from Daytona Beach
I was surprised during the final home movie shot aboard Columbia during early re-entry that the astronauts were not seated and wearing seat belts and safety clothing. Can you tell me why?
Bill from Edgewater, FL
I have been puzzled over something ever since the announcement that the impact of foam from the external tank on the leading edge of Columbia's left wing was the probable cause of the events leading to the failure of Columbia. My dilemma is this: It has been said that the foam impacted the wing at around 500 miles per hour, which I assume was the approximate speed of the shuttle at that time. Now, everything attached to the shuttle package is moving at the same velocity, obviously. So, at the instant the foam broke off the ET, it was moving at around 500 miles per hour (733 ft/sec), as was the entire shuttle. I don't understand how the relative velocity between the foam and the wing could ever be that high in such a short distance and fraction of a second. Even if the shuttle velocity was much more than 500 miles per hour, the foam was at equal velocity at the moment it broke off and I cannot understand how the relative velocity at the moment of impact could be as high as stated.
Sarah from Rockaway
Mr. Crippen, do you have one memory that is most meaningful to you regarding being an Astronaut? If so, can you share it with us?
Nathan from Ontario, Canada
Having Columbia flown for more than 20 years, and being well rooted in NASA history, has the loss of Columbia had more of an impact on the team of workers and engineers who some have spent their career, and as well as Columbia being "The Mothership," then the previous disaster with Challenger.
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center