This fabric swatch was taken from the payload bay liner of the Space Shuttle Columbia following its last successful mission.
On March 1, 2002, this piece, along with the rest of the shuttle launched into outer space, for the 27th time, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope and install new instruments. During this mission alone, this piece orbited Earth 165 times, traveling nearly 4 million miles in 11 days.
The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first space-rated orbiter in NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet. It launched for the first time on April 12, 1981, and completed 27 missions and 4,808 orbits of Earth.
The Columbia disintegrated during re-entry near the end of its next mission, STS-107, on February 1, 2003. The cause of the accident was determined to be a piece of external foam, about the size of a suitcase, that detached during launch and collided with the leading edge of the left wing of the spacecraft. The integrity of these surfaces is critical due to the extreme amount of friction which occurs during re-entry.
For more info about Columbia and crew memorials, visit nasa.gov/columbia
Second image: Young and Crippen during training on Columbia's flight deck. (Image number: S-80-40389) Courtesy of NASA.
Second image: Taken on April 12, 1981. Image courtesy of NASA.
Third Image: Columbia sitting on the pad at Kennedy Space Center. (Image number: S-81-29212) Courtesy of NASA.