Columbia opens the doors

ColumbiaSafely in orbit, the cargo bay doors are opened for the first time on Space Shuttle Columbia, revealing that some of the shuttle’s protective thermal tiles are already missing. (A later post-landing inspection reveals that more than 100 tiles are damaged, and 16 tiles are completely lost, all probably due to unexpected vibration during launch.) NASA deems the damage non-critical and gives the go-ahead for a landing, even though it’s impossible to see what damage may have been done to the more critical tiles on the shuttle’s underbelly.