The Chandra X Observatory shortly after being released by Columbia.
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Courtesy of NASA

Columbia Finally Delivers!
News story originally written on July 23, 1999

It's like they always say, a third time's a charm. After failing to launch on two previous attempts, the Space Shuttle Columbia finally took off on July 23, 1999, from Kennedy Space Center. The commander is Eileen Collins, the first woman to ever lead a mission into space.

"We'll see you in five days," Collins said moments before lifting off.

Hours later, the crew completed its main mission: putting the Chandra X Observatory in space. The $1.5 billion telescope will study distant objects like quasars for at least 5 years. The Chandra is expected to rival the Hubble Space Telescope.

''OK! And Chandra's on its way to open the eyes of X-ray astronomy to the world,'' Collins said.

There was a lot of pressure on NASA to make this attempt successful. The first attempt on July 20, was cancelled due to a faulty hydrogen measurement, while the second was delayed because of weather. If Columbia had not launched on this try, it would have been delayed until August, or possibly next year.

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