10:21 a.m., PST, 14 April 1981: The first space shuttle, Columbia, touches down on Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, California, completing the first space flight of the United States’ shuttle program.
With its two-man crew, commander, veteran astronaut John W. Young, and pilot Robert L. Crippen, Columbia traveled 1,074,567 miles (1,729,348 kilometers) on its 37-orbit journey, in 54 hours, 20 minutes, 53 seconds.
11 April 1981, 12:00:03 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-1, the very first orbital flight of the series of reusable space vehicles. Aboard were mission commander John Watts Young and shuttle pilot Robert L. Crippen.
John Young, a former U.S. Navy test pilot and holder of 21 world flight records, was NASA’s most experienced astronaut. He had served as Pilot of Gemini III; backup pilot, Gemini IV; Commander for Gemini 10; Command Module Pilot on Apollo 10; back-up commander for Apollo 13; Commander, Apollo 16; and back-up commander for Apollo 17. Young retired from the Navy in 1976 with the rank of captain.
STS-1 was Bob Crippen’s first space flight.
On 14 April, Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California. It had completed 37 orbits. The total mission duration was 2 days, 6 hours, 20 minutes, 53 seconds.
Columbia was the second of six orbiters built by Rockwell International at Palmdale, California. Construction began 27 March 1975. It was 122.17 feet (37.237 meters) long with a wingspan of 78.06 feet (23.793 meters) and overall height of 56.67 feet (17.273 meters). At rollout, 8 March 1979, OV-102 weighed 159,289 pounds (77,252.3 kilograms), and approximately 178,000 pounds (80,740 kilograms) with its five Rocketdyne RS-25 main engines installed. At launch, the all-up weight of the vehicle was 219,258 pounds (99,453 kilograms).
Columbia was returned to Rockwell for upgrades and modifications from August 1991 to February 1992. It was overhauled and upgraded again at Palmdale in 1994 and 1999.
STS-1 was the first of 135 missions of the Space Shuttle Program. 28 were flown by Columbia (OV-102). During those flights, Columbia spent 300 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes, 22 seconds in space. It completed 4,808 orbits of the Earth and travelled 125,204,911 miles (201,497,772 kilometers).
Columbia was destroyed 1 February 2003 as it disintegrated during reentry. All seven of the astronauts aboard were lost.
18 June 1983: At 7:33:00.033 a.m., EDT, Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-7.
This was Challenger‘s second flight and it carried a five-person crew, the largest aboard a single spacecraft up to that time. Commanded by Robert L. Crippen on his second shuttle flight, STS-7 was to place two communications satellites in orbit and to deploy an experimental pallet with multiple experiments.
Aboard was Mission Specialist Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., America’s first woman to fly in space. She operated the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, a robotic arm, to deploy and retrieve satellites.
Wheel stop: 175:13:58:14
Sally Ride was born 26 May 1951 at Encino, California (in “The Valley”). She was educated in the Los Angeles public school system and then attended the Westlake School for Girls, a private university prep school in the Holmby Hills area of Westwood, California, where she graduated in 1968. Miss Ride then studied for three years at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania; the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); and then entered Stanford University, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in both English (B.A) and physics (B.S.) in 1973. Continuing post-graduate studies at Stanford, she was awarded a master of science degree (M.S., 1975) and then a doctorate in physics (Ph.D., 1978).
Dr. Ride was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 1978 an underwent a year of training as a mission specialist. While awaiting assignment to a space shuttle mission, she served as CAPCOM (“capsule communicator”) for the second and third shuttle missions.
Sally Ride flew aboard Challenger for Mission STS-7, between 18–24 June 1983, with 147 hours of space flight. Her next flight was STS 41-G, also aboard Challenger, 5–13 October 1984, for 197 hours. She was assigned to STS-61M, which was also to have been flown with Challenger, but the mission was cancelled following the destruction of Challenger, 28 January 1986.
Dr. Ride served aboard the Rogers Commission investigating the tragic loss of the shuttle, along with physicist Richard P. Feynman, Ph.D., astronaut Neil A. Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager.
Sally Ride left NASA in 1987 and worked at the Center for International Arms Control at Stanford University, and in 1989, became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. In 2001, she formed Sally Ride Science, an advanced educational program at UC San Diego. In 2003 Ride was appointed to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., died 23 July 2012, at the age of 61 years. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California.