Following the successful launch of the Enterprise NX-01 in 2151, Starfleet quickly ordered an additional three NX-class starships that were to enter service in the near future. As a result the Columbia was the second ship of the class to begin construction, however at that point the vessel was only designated NX-02. (ENT episode: "Fortunate Son")
As the construction progressed it was expected that A.G. Robinson would be named as Captain, however he died in an accident while climbing Earth's Mount McKinley. By mid-2153, the Columbia was still in the early stages of construction and was unable to fight against the Xindi attack on Earth. However, by mid-2154, construction had been completed on the Columbia and she was ready to be launched. The commanding officer that Starfleet ultimately chose was Captain Erika Hernandez, a much respected Starfleet officer. (ENT episodes: "First Flight", "The Expanse", "Home")
While the launch of the Columbia was scheduled for June 2154, it later had to be pushed back to November when the starship developed trouble with her engines. Because of these set-backs, the Columbia was unable to assist the Enterprise during her encounter with a Romulan telepresence drone ship. (ENT episode: "United")
Despite several problems with the Columbia's systems, the addition of Commander Charles Tucker III as chief engineer made sure that the Columbia was able to launch in November 2154. Her first assignment after being launched was to rescue Enterprise after she had fallen victim to Klingon sabotage. In order to help the Enterprise, Columbia had to merge warp fields with Enterprise so that Commander Tucker could be transferred aboard to fix the problem.
After solving the problems with Enterprise, the Columbia then assisted her sister-ship in recovering Dr. Phlox from the Qu'Vat colony, and engaged several Klingon warships in combat. (ENT episode: "Divergence")
In mid-2155, Columbia was assigned to protect shipping lanes used by members of the Coalition of Planets following several attacks on freighters on those routes. During its patrol, on July 18, Columbia recieved a distress call from Draylax, and Admiral William Gardner ordered them to assist. With help from the Enterprise they were successful in defending Draylax from the three Romulan-controlled Klingon ships.
Shortly after their repairs were completed, on July 22, Columbia was forced to attempt to defend a number of freighters in the Alpha Centauri system from Romulan-controlled Vulcan ships. Facing alone the two D'Kyr class cruisers, Columbia suffered severe damage and only the sudden appearance of several Vulcan Defense Force ships saved them from destruction. Contact was lost with the Columbia for several days after this incident. (ENT novel: Kobayashi Maru)
The Columbia served with distinction during the Earth-Romulan war, though her initial days involved in the war were spent being towed back to Earth by a Vulcan ship. Upon completion of repairs, the Columbia was tasked with overseeing the install of the Vulcan-built early-warning system to be installed throughout Coalition territory. Her first stop was at Jupiter Station on July 30, to pick up the necessary materials. (ENT novel: Beneath the Raptor's Wing)
At some point in 2156, the Columbia was part of a task force alongside Enterprise and Challenger. The three ships left ion trails in a nebula as they soared towards Romulan space. (ST reference: Ships of the Line)
In June 2156, while escorting a mining convoy from the Onias Sector to Earth, the Columbia was attacked by a group of Romulan starships. The Romulans used their telecapture system to take control of the Columbia and use her to destroy the convoy. The crew of the Columbia then faked a self destruct by detonating a photonic torpedo simultaneously with a brief warp jump, allowing the vessel to escape destruction itself. The Columbia was severely damaged in the attack, its warp drive and communications systems were irreparably damaged. The crystal matrix had been reduced to dust and splinters, at least half the coils in each nacelle were ruptured, the ventral plasma relays were all severed, the subspace communications software and firmware were destroyed by the telecapture, their escape plan destroyed all the shuttlepods and the transceiver array. In terms of crew, the attack and subsequent escape plan killed more than half the crew and most of the MACO contingent, leaving only forty-two crew. Rather than wait for rescue, Columbia's commanding officer Erika Hernandez ordered the ship to set course for a planet that long-range scans indicated might possess intelligent life at near-light speeds. In order to get to the planet without warp drive the Columbia was forced to push use her impulse engines to achieve the highest possible sub-light speeds, which caused Columbia to experience the effects of relative time dilation, arriving at the planet in 2168 though only 63 days had passed aboard ship. (ST - Destiny novel: Gods of Night)
Upon arriving at the planet, called Erigol, its inhabitants, the Caeliar, informed the landing party that they would never be allowed to return home in order to protect the Caeliar's privacy from the outside galaxy. Several Columbia crewmembers and MACO officers staged a mutiny against Captain Hernandez's orders to cooperate with the Caeliar, destroying a Caeliar city and disrupting their ongoing inter-galactic communications project known as the Great Work. This set in motion a sequence of events leading to Erigol's star going supernova and the destruction of Erigol, and to the creation of several unstable subspace vortexes. Columbia, attempting to flee the supernova, entered a subspace tunnel that led to the distant Gamma Quadrant; its remaining thirty-one human and one Denobulan crewmembers were incinerated by the hyperphasic radiation present in the subspace tunnel forty seconds after entering it. The only survivors were those Columbia crewmembers in the Caeliar city-ships of Mantilis and Axion, which entered subspace tunnels that deposited them in the Delta Quadrant of 4527 BC and the Beta Quadrant of 1519, respectively. (ST - Destiny novels: Gods of Night, Mere Mortals, Lost Souls)
In 2156, Columbia and Excalibur were ordered to Starbase 1 in the Algeron system, officially for scheduled maintenance, though the real reason was to protect the base from a potential Romulan attack. The Romulans had declared that Algeron was their property and ordered humans to leave weeks before. On May 18, five Romulan warbirds attacked the system and jammed communication channels. Hernandez ordered that Excalibur retreat and warn Starfleet, while Columbia stayed to defend the system. Columbia was lost with all hands. (ST reference: Federation: The First 150 Years)
- The reference book Federation: The First 150 Years relates a different story of Columbia's loss, which contradicts the account given in Star Trek: Destiny.
- Ships of the Line and Destiny established the Columbia was last in active service in 2156. Some other sources have indicated later service by the vessel, which seems to contradict those sources' continuity.
The disappearance of the Columbia became one of the most enduring mysteries in Starfleet history for over two centuries, known only to have been last reported near Tau Ceti. In 2373 the mystery took a new twist when the Columbia was discovered at its final crash site on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant by Benjamin Sisko and the crew of the Federation starship USS Defiant and the NCC-13370. The Defiant crew were forced to abandon their investigations when Jem'Hadar ships were detected approaching the planet, and two months later the Dominion War began, making the recovery of the Columbia a low priority. The discovery led some to speculate the Dominion had visited the Alpha Quadrant far earlier than previously believed. (ST reference: Ships of the Line; ST - Destiny novel: Gods of Night)
In 2381 the mystery of how Columbia reached the Gamma Quadrant was re-visited when Ezri Dax and the crew of the USS Aventine returned to the planet, searching for a link between its arrival in the Gamma Quadrant and the unknown mechanism being used to send Borg vessels into the Alpha Quadrant during the Borg Invasion of 2381. Research of the Columbia's wreck led the Aventine to discover the subspace tunnel that had transported the Columbia to the Gamma Quadrant, and ultimately the source of the Borg's ingress. (ST - Destiny novel: Gods of Night)
Following the end of the war with the Borg Collective, Columbia was returned to port in the Sol system, tugged into port at the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards by the USS da Vinci. (ST - Destiny novel: Lost Souls)
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