When NASA launched its first Space Shuttle - the amazing Columbia Space Shuttle aka STS-1 - Hindustan Times
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When NASA launched its first Space Shuttle - the amazing Columbia Space Shuttle aka STS-1

Apr 13, 2024 05:37 PM IST

NASA’s Columbia Space Shuttle was a huge success and provided humanity with its first reusable spacecraft that could make multiple trips to space and back.

On April 12, 1981, the Columbia Space Shuttle - aka STS-1 - lifted off majestically from the Kennedy Space Center and headed for space. STS-1 stands for Space Transportation System-1. It launched in style, with much sound, thunder and a huge light and fire show, and heralded the new era of human spaceflight. It had taken decades of visionary thought, hard work and enterprise for it to come so far and there were many doubts that almost ensured the flight did not happen that day either.

NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia seen during its first launch way back on April 12, 1981.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia seen during its first launch way back on April 12, 1981.

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The Space Shuttle development program took as long as 9 years and at the end of it humanity had something that was considered impossible - a spacecraft that could travel out into space and then return back to Earth and keep doing it a number of times as long as it was considered space-worthy. This unique reusability factor was intended to provide NASA with a low-cost transportation system that was ready to go at any time and give it access to space. For the years that Columbia Space Shuttle, and other shuttles, flew, they established a permanent link between Earth and space.

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Notably, Space Shuttle Discovery was actually used to haul the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit above Earth and then other shuttles were deployed to fix the telescope on a number of occasions.

The important stats:

- Date: April 12, 1981.

- Event: First space shuttle, STS-1, launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

- Crew: NASA astronauts John W. Young (commander) and Robert L. Crippen (pilot).

- Purpose: Demonstrate safe launch into orbit and safe return of orbiter and crew.

- Objective: Verify combined performance of shuttle vehicle – orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and external tank.

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- Landing: Edwards Air Force Base, California.

- Date of landing: April 14, 1981.

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