In the early morning of 1st February 2003, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mission Control Centre is a hive of activity. The control room is located at the Lyndon B Johnson Space Centre in Texas. The Mission Control Centre is more commonly known by its callsign, so named because of the city it is located in, Houston. While the technology contained within the room has become more sophisticated over the years since the beginning of US spaceflight, the purpose of Mission Control has remained the same, manage the flight of NASA’s spacecraft after launch until landing.
This morning, the mission controllers will be overseeing the deorbit, reentry and landing of the Space Shuttle Orbiter, Columbia. It’s latest mission, STS-107 marks the 28th time the aircraft has launched into orbit, having completed a variety of missions throughout its 22 year career. Columbia is the oldest operational orbiter. While the three other orbiters, Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour have focused on the construction of the new International Space Station in recent years, Columbia has had a different purpose. The 7 astronauts aboard the orbiter have just completed a 16 day scientific mission. Working 24 hours a day in two alternating shifts, the crew have completed 80 experiments with a particular focus on how microgravity affects humans and how they can adapt to the environment of space.