Other sailing ships have further enhanced the luster of the name Columbia. The first U.S. Navy ship to circle the globe bore that title, as did the command module for Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission.
On a more directly patriotic note, "Columbia" is considered to be the feminine personification of the United States. The name is derived from that of another famous explorer, Christopher Columbus.
The spaceship Columbia has continued the pioneering legacy of its forebears, becoming the first Space Shuttle to fly into Earth orbit in 1981. Four sister ships joined the fleet over the next 10 years: Challenger, arriving in 1982 but destroyed four years later; Discovery, 1983; Atlantis, 1985; and Endeavour, built as a replacement for Challenger, 1991. A test vehicle, the Enterprise, was used for suborbital approach and landing tests and did not fly in space. The names of Columbia's sister ships each boast their own illustrious pedigree.
In the day-to-day world of Shuttle operations and processing, Space Shuttle orbiters go by a more prosaic designation. Columbia is commonly refered to as OV-102, for Orbiter Vehicle-102. Empty Weight was 158,289 lbs at rollout and 178,000 lbs with main engines installed.
On October 8, 1994, Columbia was transported to Palmdale California for its first ODMP. Approximately 90 modifications and upgrades were made to Columbia during this 6 month period. Modifications included upgrades to the main landing gear thermal barrier, tire pressure monitoring system and radiator drive circuitry. (Reference KSC Press Release 113-94 and Shuttle Status Report 10/10/94)
On September 24, 1999, Columbia was transported to Palmdale California for its second ODMP. While in California, workers will perform more than 100 modifications on the vehicle. Columbia will be the second orbiter outfitted with the multi-functional electronic display system (MEDS) or "glass cockpit". Last year, Shuttle Atlantis had the full-color, flat-panel displays installed on its flight deck during an OMDP. The new system improves crew interaction with the orbiter during flight and reduces the high cost of maintaining the outdated electromechanical cockpit displays currently onboard. (Reference KSC Press Release 74-99)