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40 years since launch: A look back at Space Shuttle Columbia(22 images)

The first mission of Space Shuttle Columbia, the first shuttle sent into space, launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 12, 1981. Over 20 years, that shuttle completed 28 missions, spent over 300 days in space, carried dozens of astronauts and evolved with technological advancements. Columbia's missions ended February 1, 2003, when seven astronauts died during the shuttle's re-entry.

This is an early morning scene at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39, with the space shuttle Columbia in position on Pad A at right in March 1981. The shuttle was launched on April 12, 1981, with astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen aboard. Photo courtesy of NASA
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