ASF marks 35-year anniversary since flights of STS-1 & STS-2
HOUSTON, Texas — It has been three-and-a-half decades since the Space Shuttle Columbia carried out her first and second flights – heralding the start of the Shuttle era. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) held a three-day event, starting on Thursday, Sept. 15, to mark the occasion.
With attendees including Bob Crippen (the pilot of STS-1), Joe Engle, Dick Truly, and Dan Brandenstein, Space Center Houston played host to the anniversary event which was moderated by Brandenstein.
After the close of the Apollo Program, NASA was considering what the space agency would do “next”. While the agency might have wanted a space station and a spacecraft to “shuttle” to and from the orbiting outpost, the budget said you could only have one or the other. Opting to retain the ability to reach orbit, NASA chose the shuttle.
The winged vehicle lifted off on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981. The crew of John Young, a veteran of four missions to space already at that point, would lead the mission. As noted, Crippen served as the mission’s pilot. After some 37 orbits, NASA was back in the business of manned space exploration (NASA had conducted the last crewed launch in 1975 with the flight of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project).
STS-2, also took place on Columbia, some seven months later in November of 1981. The mission marked the first time that an all-rookie crew flew to orbit since the Skylab 4 mission in November of 1973.
Since the first flight of the shuttle, NASA would go on to launch the orbiter 135 times. In the program’s 30-year history, it would encounter several setbacks and two very public failures – it would also redefine what humanity viewed as possible as being possible on-orbit before the program drew to a close in 2011.
The shuttles would go on to deploy the Hubble and Chandra Space Telescopes, be the primary means of construction for the International Space Station, send the Galileo and Magellan probes to Jupiter and Venus, and transport 789 astronauts and cosmonauts to orbit. Those and other successes got their start 35 years ago with two flights conducted on Columbia in 1981.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.