How to watch 'Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight' online and from anywhere now

The Columbia crew, Kalpana Chawla, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Ilan Ramon, David Brown, William McCool and Michael Anderson, pose in their spacesuits.
(Image credit: BBC)
'Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight': Key information

 UK: Watch for FREE on BBC iPlayer
• US: Watch on CNN and Max
• Away from home: Use a VPN such as NordVPN to watch your usual service from anywhere
• Canada and Australia: Release dates TBC

"The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth" is a is a three-part documentary that charts the story of the 2003 Columbia disaster, when NASA's shuttle disintegrated as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere over Texas. 

Note: In the US, the series comprises four-parts and is known as "Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight". 

Utterly mesmerizing from the start, this documentary combines first-hand testimony with previously unseen video footage to explore how and why the tragic events of February 1 occurred.

Crucially, the documentary hears from the NASA engineers who desperately tried to raise the alarm about the piece of foam that broke loose during launch – and explores what steps could have averted the disaster.

"The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth" has scored numerous five-star reviews thanks to its intimate portrayal of a lost crew that will be admired forever. Below, we explain how to watch the Columbia disaster doc online – from anywhere on the planet.

How to watch 'The Shuttle That Fell to Earth' for free in the UK


All three episodes of "The Shuttle That Fell to Earth" are available to watch now on BBC iPlayer. They're FREE to view if you have a valid TV Licence. 

iPlayer is packed with tons of high-quality content including the recent Doctor Who anniversary specials and Brian Cox's Adventures in Space and Time.  

Outside the UK? You can always use a VPN to access BBC iPlayer from wherever you are. More on that below...

How to watch 'The Shuttle That Fell to Earth' from anywhere

If you're a UK resident abroad, you can still watch "The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth" for FREE on BBC iPlayer.  

Downloading a VPN allows you to stream your favourite content from anywhere. These simple pieces of software can change your IP address, allowing you to access on-demand content or live TV just as you would at home.

BBC iPlayer doesn't work outside of the UK. A VPN solves that problem...


There are lots of VPN services to choose from, but NordVPN is the one we rate best. It's outstanding at unblocking streaming services, it's fast and it has top-level security features too. With over 5,000 servers, across 60 countries, and at a great price too, it's easy to recommend.

Get 70% off Nord VPN risk-free for 30 days

Important: we do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

How to watch 'The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth' in the US

"The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth" was produced by Louis Theroux's London-based Mindhouse TV for the BBC and CNN.

The four-part US version of the documentary, known as "Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight" aired live for pay TV subscribers on and the CNN app.

It's also available to stream on (plans from $9.99 a month).

Remember: Brits away from home can use NordVPN to access BBC iPlayer when traveling abroad. You'll need an iPlayer account (free) and a valid TV license.

"The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth" official trailer

If you're yet to watch the documentary, here's a brief tease of what's in store...

The Most Emotional Space Shuttle Launch 🥹🚀 | The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth - BBC - YouTube The Most Emotional Space Shuttle Launch 🥹🚀 | The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth - BBC - YouTube
Watch On

The Columbia disaster: FAQs

What happened to the space shuttle Columbia?

In 2003, disaster struck when NASA's space shuttle Columbia broke apart as it returned to Earth, killing the seven astronauts on board. An investigation board concluded that a large piece of foam insulation fell from the shuttle's external tank during the launch phase and damaged the spacecraft's left wing. Here's a more detailed look at the Columbia disaster, the crew who perished, and the impact that it had on NASA's shuttle program.

What happened after the Columbia disaster?

After the Columbia disaster, pieces of Columbia space shuttle debris were collected and stored in a hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. More than 82,000 pieces of debris were recovered. In all, 84,800 pounds, or 38% of the total dry weight of Columbia, was recovered. Some 20 years after the tragedy, NASA continues to commit to 'acute awareness of astronaut safety'.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tom Bailey

Tom is a journalist, author and copywriter based in the UK. He has written articles for Tom's Guide, T3, TechRadar, ShortList, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Elle Deco, The Sunday Times, Men's Health, Auto Trader and many more. His specialities include TV, technology, electric vehicles, UAP and streaming services. He is a huge Formula 1 fan and his favourite circuit is Silverstone, where you'll find him cheering on Lando Norris' McLaren.