CNN Announces ‘Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight’ Four-Part Series

Space Shuttle Columbia 2003
Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

On the morning of February 1, 2003, Americans woke up to the shocking news that Columbia, NASA’s first space shuttle, was lost on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts onboard STS-107 had perished.

CNN’s four-part documentary series Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight examines the disaster through exclusive interviews and never-before-broadcast footage. Episodes 1 and 2 premiere Sunday, April 7, at 9pm ET/PT. Episodes 3 and 4 air the following Sunday, April 14, at 9pm ET/PT.

According to CNN:

Across four episodes, the story of the ticking-clock of Columbia’s final mission is told in dramatic detail, beginning months before the troubled launch, unfolding across the sixteen days in orbit, and concluding with the investigation into the tragic loss of the seven astronauts’ lives. Weaving together intimate footage shot by the astronauts themselves inside the orbiter, exclusive first-hand testimony from family members of the Shuttle’s crew, key players at NASA – some of whom have never spoken before – and journalists who covered the story on the ground, the series paints an intimate portrait of the women and men onboard and uncovers in forensic detail the trail of events and missed opportunities that ultimately led to disaster.

Columbia changed space exploration and captured the world’s imagination when it made its maiden flight on April 12, 1981. It would go on to make 28 trips into space in its lifetime.

Though marvels of engineering and technology, the space shuttles were expensive to launch and maintain, and their complexity made them prone to failures. Challenger (OV-099) and its crew were lost during launch in 1986.

The loss of Columbia forced the U.S. government and NASA to reevaluate and refocus its manned spaceflight program. It also hastened the retirement of the space shuttle fleet.


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