Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: Remembering STS-1
Unmanned Spaceflight.com > EVA > Manned Spaceflight
Stu
Today is the 25th anniversary of an event which some say shaped the modern space age - ah, but for better or for worse? I hear many cry. Well, lots of different opinions on that, but what can't be argued is that when it happened the blast-off of the very first orbital shuttle, Columbia, was incredibly exciting and, for many people like me, extremely moving too.

I have very sharp and fond memories of that time. As a space mad teenager I was buzzing with excitement and anticipation about the launch of the shuttle, and had followed the program through from the very first "Approach and Landing Tests" - when Enterprise was dropped off the back of that 747 to test how it would land - and by the time launch day came I was almost unbearably excited and nervous. I remember the first launch attempt was made on a school day, and I ran home from school so fast, after a day of endless clock-watching, only to find the launch postponed. But that was good news, because it meant I was able to watch it live when it finally happened the following Sunday, and - I'm sure to my family's frustration! - I took over the TV for almost the whole of launch day, insisting it remain tuned to the live launch coverage. I'll never forget how, with his Hollywood idol, clean-cut looks, complete with dazzling smile, Bob Crippen contrasted with Young's rather "weathered" look as they strode out together to the bus that would take them to the shuttle. They looked magnificent! Then the seemingly-endless wait for launch, the clock ticking so, so slowly...

And finally, just seconds to go. Columbia looked so beautiful, so graceful standing on the pad. Completely white - orbiter, rockets and fuel tank, because inthose early days they actually painted the enormous external fuel tank white to match the orbiter and SRBs (they leave it unpainted now of course) - she looked like some kind of swan standing there, yearning to race skywards... Then the countdown reached zero, and huge billows of grey and white "smoke" (actually steam, I know now!) came shooting out from beneath the shuttle, accompanied by a deep, thrumming sound as the engines flared to life... then she was rising, slowly, very slowly, a brilliant flaring light shining beneath her, the glow of the three main engines pushing her upwards... By the time she cleared the tower I recall I was in tears at the sight of it, because - having been aware of but not personally attached to the Apollo missions, and the launches of the Saturn 5's, because of my young age - shuttle was MY spaceship, it just felt like a piece of me was in it somehow, and now, finally, she was thundering skywards...

I sat there, on the floor in front of the TV, watching Columbia punch into the sky, riding a column of white smoke, with the teeth-jarring crackling of her engines and rockets spitting out of the TV speaker, and you know, I believed that a New "Space Age" had begun... Maybe this was it, I thought, a new start. And even when the TV news reported that night that Columbia had lost 16 tiles and damaged a further 148 on the climb into orbit I wasn't worried; heck, I knew it would take a lot more than a few missing tiles to worry My Ship, and when she glided in for a landing after 36 orbits of Earth, to the acclaim of the world, and when Young and Crippen literally bounded down the steps, beaming from ear to ear, pumping each others hands, I thought that yes, maybe we would actually see people back on the Moon by the time I left school; maybe astronauts would be exploring Mars when I "grew up", and I'd be able to watch their adventures live on my TV... Maybe I'd be one of them myself!

Of course, things didn't quite work out like that. We lost proud Challenger and her brave crew just five years later, and faithful Columbia herself - my beautiful, swan-white Columbia - disintegrated as she glided in for another perfect landing just a few years ago. The schedule has slipped, the willpower diminished, the passion faded. Astronauts won't bound across the Moon's dusty surface for at least another decade, and Mars seems as far away as ever, and I am beginning to doubt that I'll live to see the first humans stand on her rock-strewn surface.

Shuttle has critics by the legion now, and yes, there's a case to be made for shuttle having delayed more important, bolder manned space missions, delayed technology advancements etc... but for one day let's just give the Swans a break eh? Let's tactfully avert our eyes from budget sheets and timetables and just remember the wonderful images and achievements we've all enjoyed in our past. Let's think back and remember the pictures of astronauts spacewalking in that cavernous payload bay... of the Hubble being launched and then repaired... of the exquisite, balletic dockings with MIR and ISS... of thunderous launches and graceful landings... of seeing the shuttles themselves flying through the sky from our own gardens and backyards, marvelling at how there were people on "that star"...

In time I'm sure all those memories will fade. But I'll never forget the first flight of Columbia on that heart-in-my-mouth Sunday - and as we mark the 25th anniversary of her maiden flight, I'll remember how I felt on that glorious day when, watching Columbia ride a pillar of spitting, howling fire into the bright blue sky, I thought that surely, if we could build something that beautiful and that powerful, then anything was possible... smile.gif
climber
Today is the 25th anniversary of an event which some say shaped the modern space age

Today is the 45th anniversary of an event which some say shaped THE space age wink.gif
Ouuuuuuuups! Isn't this MANNED Spaceflight ?
Bob Shaw
When STS-1 flew I was there, watching from the turning basin in front of the press stand. I'd had not a lot of sleep, not least because it was the second attempt at launch and I was both jet-lagged and time-shifted. It was a slightly hazy morning, though the night before was very very clear - I'd been on the sunset photo tour for the press and got some gorgeous shots from the photo site beside the pad. Columbia rose in silence, then the roar hit us - a low, rough crackle as she flew into history. The biggest surprise for me was the tower of smoke which followed the vehicle into the sky - those SRBs were dirty beasts. I watched the SRBs drop away, then saw Columbia only as a dot in the sky, arcing out over the ocean.

That wasn't, oddly, the last time I saw Columbia during a launch, though the next time I only had to step outside my house to do so. John Young's final (so far) flight was aboard Columbia on the first Spacelab mission. The ESA Metric Camera experiment demanded a high-inclination orbit, which resulted in Columbia launching across NW Europe. The timing was perfect - and so was the weather, for just after sunset Columbia passed to the north of Glasgow, preceded by the tumbling (and very red) ET. The Orbiter was at that point flying upside down while performing the OMS orbital insertion burn, so caught the sunshine against the darkening sky. John Young came to Scotland several years ago, and mentioned in passing at a public talk in Edinburgh that it was his first visit, and I was delighted to be able to tell him that he'd actually flown over Glasgow during his last launch!

Bob Shaw
djellison
I was 2 at the time - sadly my first 'space memory' is Challenger. sad.gif

STS get's a lot of stick, much of it warrented, but it still is a hell of a sight and a hell of a vehicle when it flies.

Doug
ljk4-1
What I recall from the STS-1 mission was a brief space history the
ABC-TV network did before the launch, which included the only time
I have ever heard the actual complete voice transmissions from the
astronauts in the Apollo 1 of 1967, including Roger Chaffee's godawful
scream as the fire hit him. Why they included that on such a day I
do not know, but it was scary to hear.

I know, what a thing to recall on such an anniversary, right? But
reality usually doesn't concern itself with human sentiments.

Did you know that the then-upcoming STS-1 flight was the very last
news item Walter Kronkite mentioned on his very last time as anchor
of CBS News in 1981? Appropriate, even though I have never been
a fan of the Space Shuttle. It lacks most of the romance of Apollo,
Gemini, and Mercury. I hope the CEV will bring some of that back.

STS-1 may be the memories of more folks due to its closer
proximity in time, but I think the event of April 12, 1961 has
even more signifigance to the human species:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vostok_1

Some day, though, AI will advance to the point that humans will not be
necessary on space missions. This may kill the romance for some people,
but for others the idea of a mind we helped create exploring the Universe
should be exciting enough.
tasp
With liftoff thrust slightly less than Saturn 5 levels, I figured the launch was pretty safe (little did I know then) especially with the ejection seats for Crippen and Young.

I was quite anxious about re-entry and landing though. The tile problems had delayed the launch for years, and I really had doubts about all 30,000 tiles staying on. (they had lost several tiles from the OMS pods during launch, btw)

I was also a little iffy about the short series of drop tests of Enterprise from the 747. Seemed the landing was just so dangerous. Even underrunning or overrunning the runway at Edwards seemed plausible.
climber
The timing was perfect - and so was the weather, for just after sunset Columbia passed to the north of Glasgow, preceded by the tumbling (and very red) ET. The Orbiter was at that point flying upside down while performing the OMS orbital insertion burn, so caught the sunshine against the darkening sky.
[/quote]
I remember seen this flight too from Toulouse but it was not on the first orbit. One of the main raison I watched it was because of John Young. He is such an hero (and I also bet he can still fly wink.gif ). Imagine, he was the test pilot of the first Gemini flight (3), and his lunar rover testing on the moon is still a lot of fun watching (lot of dust but no dead weel).
There has been a nice show this week on NASA TV with both John and Robert at the Cape. John is still very funny. If you've rights, you can still see it here :
http://www.spaceflightnowplus.com/content.php?i=1087
Stu
Today is the 45th anniversary of an event which some say shaped THE space age

Absolutely! But as I was minus 4 years old when Gagarin flew I thought I'd leave that for someone else to cover. wink.gif
The Messenger
Nice essay Stu.

The first shuttle flight was the first space mission I had a direct hand in. I think I was more nervous than excited - there was SO much hardware that had not been flight tested. We had fussed and fussed with the tiles -And there were lots of unknowns about the solid rocket boosters.

The Time article had characterized landing the shuttle as "landing a flying brick."

The first flight, by the way, was very close to a tragedy: The farings that coupled the solid boosters to the main tank were badly fractured and very nearly failed - they were immediately redesigned for subsequent flights. These and other heavy modifications led to the decision not to paint the main tank on future missions.

One final note - shuttle propellent, the boosters - is not that clean. Much of what you see is water vapor, but there is also considerable aluminum oxide, hydrochloric acid, aluminum slag, and any and all of the decomposition products you would expect in burning rubber.
Michael Capobianco
I was there, to the left of the countdown clock in the press area, apparently not far from Bob. I drove down from DC with my collaborator William Barton, and, since we were using very shaky press credentials, we were continually afraid that we'd be discovered and ejected. biggrin.gif Since the launch was delayed a day, we spent the night in the press area and got very little sleep.

Everything about the launch was impressive. I was sort of expecting such an oddly shaped thing to blow up, but it didn't, it just kept going and going and going.

Michael
Bob Shaw
Michael:

I took pictures of the crowd along the banks of the turning basin; at some point I'll scan them and send them to you. I may have photographed you! I was also to the left of the countdown clock - you can perhaps judge the geometry from the photo of the launch where the practice water landing forebody was moored.

My credentials were just as shaky as yours, but NASA cared not a jot - innocent times, eh?

Bob Shaw
BruceMoomaw
It scared the hell out of me that NASA was flying such a radical and risky new spacecraft for the first time WITH MEN ON BOARD, and no good escape system. Of course, if they hadn't done so and instead staged a Soviet-style automatic landing, those embarrassing little questions would have started to rear their heads: "Why do we need to put men on this thing's satellite-deployment missions at all?" And, from there, the next one would have been: "Why do we need a man-rated craft to orbit satellites at all"? When Toto pulls aside even one small corner of the curtain, the reign of the Wizard of Oz comes to an end -- and NASA was quite willing to risk (and ultimately lose) the lives of people in order to retain that reign.
BPCooper
Bob, great shots. I would love to see more if you have any.
Bob Shaw
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Apr 12 2006, 11:10 PM) *
It scared the hell out of me that NASA was flying such a radical and risky new spacecraft for the first time WITH MEN ON BOARD, and no good escape system.


Bruce:

I used to regularly do talks regarding the Shuttle before, and after, it flew, and *the* audience question was 'where's the escape tower?' (toilet arrangements didn't get a look in). That's from simple, unsophisticated audiences, not aerospace pros. My answer was always that NASA said that they didn't need one, and that we should expect total vehicle and crew losses at some point. I will *never* understand why the crew compartment was not designed from the start as a rescue pod, a la FB-111, with solid tractor rockets where the RCS assembly was seated. Such an arrangement would have had relatively slight mass costs if the mid-deck area was split from the launch/landing area and placed in the cargo bay, where it might even have made the airlock module redundant. But, they decided not to go for it!

As for the crewless shuttle, it similarly beats me why they don't just modify the things to fly unmanned NOW and use them as heavy-lift vehicles - that'd keep the workforce up, allow the ISS to be finished, and still keep a manned capability if required. At the time of the first launch, though, the expectations were somewhat different, and there were few naysayers to men being aboard. Currently, though...

And as regards the Hubble servicing mission, it could be done, manned, without Shuttle. Take two Russian rockets, add one Soyuz; add one Progress with Pirs-class cargo carrier. Launch. If NASA gives me $200M I'll organise it for them (but I may need to go along to supervise).

Bob Shaw
Bob Shaw
Ben:

Here's another sunset tour image. I'll scan some more soon!

There's also a picture taken when Enterprise and the SCA flew over Glasgow in 1983. Rockwell had a factory unit in nearby East Kilbride, and announced to the press that the pair would fly directly over their site. They stuck to that story, and a crowd of perhaps 500 people turned up to get the best possible view. In fact, they flew straight along the main runway at Glasgow Airport and over the city centre. The Rockwell reptiles were lying!

We were *not* a happy bunch of plane spotters.

Bob Shaw
Michael Capobianco
QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Apr 12 2006, 04:49 PM) *
Michael:

I took pictures of the crowd along the banks of the turning basin; at some point I'll scan them and send them to you.


That would be great. My e-mail address is in my member profile. Thanks.

Michael
BPCooper
QUOTE (Michael Capobianco @ Apr 13 2006, 10:51 AM) *
That would be great. My e-mail address is in my member profile. Thanks.

Michael


Count me in :-)

I love the sunset photo Bob. I wish I could have been there.
ljk4-1
Remembering the shuttle's scary start

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12243173/#060412b

James Oberg

April 12, 2006

To quote:

"Unlike television dramatizations of space launches, we didn't watch a
televised view of the launch - that was forbidden as too distracting. We
watched, instead, TV screens with tables of numerical and graphical data, as
well as alert light panels - red, yellow, green - that indicated discrete events
and conditions of concern. And we had practiced for two years to recognize signs
of trouble that would require a rapid change of plans for the astronauts aboard
the spaceship. Part of the training had been to pare away any extraneous data
inputs that would only distract us from what we needed to know.

"What we didn't see - and, fortunately, what the crew didn't see, either -
was exactly what happened when the shuttle's three main engines lit up, and then
its two massive solid-rocket boosters, or SRBs, fired to push it up into the
air. Nobody had ever test-fired all these engines together, in a simulated
launch pad or any other test stand. Nobody took seriously what then actually
happened.
BruceMoomaw
QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Apr 13 2006, 11:37 AM) *
As for the crewless shuttle, it similarly beats me why they don't just modify the things to fly unmanned NOW and use them as heavy-lift vehicles - that'd keep the workforce up, allow the ISS to be finished, and still keep a manned capability if required. At the time of the first launch, though, the expectations were somewhat different, and there were few naysayers to men being aboard. Currently, though...

And as regards the Hubble servicing mission, it could be done, manned, without Shuttle. Take two Russian rockets, add one Soyuz; add one Progress with Pirs-class cargo carrier. Launch. If NASA gives me $200M I'll organise it for them (but I may need to go along to supervise).

Bob Shaw


The trouble with the first is that the Shuttle ISN'T a heavy lift vehicle -- Griffin himself has described it as "a 180,000-lb. shroud for a 60,000-pound payload".

Regarding the second, Great Minds Think Alike -- I did a SpaceDaily piece on that possibility a few years ago. It's a bit late to organize it now, though... Better to just launch a replacement, like the "HOP".
Bob Shaw
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Apr 13 2006, 08:18 PM) *
The trouble with the first is that the Shuttle ISN'T a heavy lift vehicle -- Griffin himself has described it as "a 180,000-lb. shroud for a 60,000-pound payload".


Bruce:

Quite true - but at the moment there aren't any *big* payloads, anyway - everything that's waiting to fly to the ISS is sized for the Shuttle, and there's not much else waiting in the wings bar triana and a couple of X-vehicles. If there's a one in fifty history of catastrophic failure, and you only need to get a couple of dozen flights out of the thing, fly it unmanned as often as possible, then kill it, having accepted that there may be some cargo losses. No more RTF - just fly!

Turning the Shuttle into an unmanned spacecraft would have many advantages - not least our ability to discuss it here without incurring The Wrath Of Doug!

Bob Shaw
ljk4-1
QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Apr 13 2006, 03:53 PM) *
Turning the Shuttle into an unmanned spacecraft would have many advantages - not least our ability to discuss it here without incurring The Wrath Of Doug!

Bob Shaw


But then what do you do with all those astronauts who don't want to
wait until 2018 for a space flight?
Bob Shaw
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Apr 13 2006, 09:07 PM) *
But then what do you do with all those astronauts who don't want to
wait until 2018 for a space flight?


Easy. Let them learn Russian. Or get a job in the private sector - I hear Mr Rutan's hiring.

Bob Shaw
David
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Apr 13 2006, 08:07 PM) *
But then what do you do with all those astronauts who don't want to
wait until 2018 for a space flight?


They can be foreign guest cosmonauts!
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.
Invision Power Board © 2001-2014 Invision Power Services, Inc.