This supercomputer is named Columbia Supercomputer in honor of the crew of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia that disintegrated over Texas on February 1, 2003. The disaster resulted in the death of all the seven crew – Commander: Rick D. Husband, Pilot: William C. McCool, Payload Commander: Michael P. Anderson (also in charge of science mission), Payload Specialist: Ilan Ramon (an Israeli Air Force colonel, also the first Israeli astronaut), Mission Specialist: Kalpana Chawla (an India-born aerospace engineer on her second space mission), Mission Specialist: David M. Brown, and Mission Specialist: Laurel Clark.
The Columbia Supercomputer was specially built for NASA by Silicon Graphics. The main purpose for which it was built was to “esimulate the violent collision and merger of spiral galaxies that lead to the formation of elliptical galaxies”. The supercomputer is connected to the NASA Research and Engineering Network. In 2004 it was installed at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at Ames Research Center (ARC) located at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley.