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Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight, April 7, 2024 CNN



Space Shuttle Columbia The Final Flight

In a two-part special, Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight, viewers are taken back to the year 2003. In Part 1, airing on Sunday, April 7 at 9:00 PM on CNN, we witness the countdown leading up to the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia’s 28th mission. Seven astronauts prepare for their journey into space, unaware of the tragic fate that awaits them.

Part 2 of this gripping series continues immediately after Part 1. A debris strike on the shuttle’s left wing raises concerns and alarms within NASA. Despite this ominous development, the crew remains oblivious as they proceed with their scheduled 16-day mission. Emotional video conferences with their families add an additional layer of intensity to their story.

Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, 1 February 2003

On 1 February 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board. The cause of the disaster was a piece of insulating foam that broke loose from the shuttle’s external tank and struck the leading edge of the left wing, damaging protective tiles. The shuttle, which had made its first flight in 1981, was on its 28th mission, STS-107, dedicated to various experiments. The crew of seven included commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, mission specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark, and payload specialist Ilan Ramon.

The foam impact occurred 81 seconds after liftoff, and while engineers noticed it, they did not deem it a significant concern. The shuttle continued its mission for 16 days, with the crew conducting experiments and sharing updates with their families. However, during re-entry, hot gases penetrated the damaged wing, causing it to collapse, leading to the shuttle’s disintegration.


The disaster resulted in the grounding of the remaining three shuttles—Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour—and the suspension of the International Space Station assembly. The tragedy also prompted a re-evaluation of NASA’s organisational culture and safety protocols, with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) identifying issues such as schedule pressures and a lack of integrated systems engineering.

The recovery effort for the crew and shuttle debris spanned three months, with about 38% of Columbia recovered. The tragedy was commemorated with memorials and the naming of geographical features, and it led to changes in NASA’s safety procedures and the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, now called Orion, for future deep space exploration.

Tune in on Sunday, April 7 at 9:00 PM for Part 1 and at10:00 PM for Part 2 of Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight on CNN.


Hey there! I'm Riley, the US TV Previews editor at I may have failed as a musician, but my love for Jeopardy knows no bounds. And let me tell you, The Wire is hands down the greatest TV show ever made. I've been writing about the entertainment biz since (mumble mumble). Stay tuned for all the latest TV news and previews!


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