'To Come to California': Remembering Shuttle Columbia's Maiden Voyage

Columbia approaches touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., 34 years ago today. Photo Credit: NASA

More than three decades have passed since the maiden voyage of the space shuttle. On 12 April 1981, orbiter Columbia rocketed away from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), kicking off a new era which would […]

Dawn of an Era: Remembering Shuttle Columbia's Maiden Launch

 

Thirty-four years ago, today, at dawn, Columbia roared into orbit, heralding the dawn of a new era in U.S. space exploration. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Thirty-four years ago, today, on 12 April 1981, the first winged orbital space vehicle carrying human pilots was launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) […]

Stretching the Shuttle: 25 Years Since the EDO Decision

Columbia is approached by servicing vehicles on the runway on 7 December 1996, after concluding STS-80, the shuttle program’s longest Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) mission. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, this week, NASA and Rockwell International reached a historic agreement which would, both figuratively and literally, “extend” the shuttle and its myriad capabilities […]

Repair and Salvage: The First 50 Years of Spacewalking (Part 4)

During his historic untethered EVA with the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) on 7 February 1984, Bruce McCandless ventured as far as 300 feet (90 meters) from Challenger. Photo Credit: NASA

Ironically, the spacecraft from which the most Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) were performed—the space shuttle—was not originally intended to carry the capability for spacewalking at […]

'Instant Daylight': 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-67 (Part 1)

Commander Steve Oswald leads the STS-67 crew out of the Operations and Checkout Building on the late evening of 1 March 1995, bound for a liftoff in the small hours of the following morning. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, seven astronauts, including four professional astronomers, were midway through what turned out […]

'The Most Complex So Far': What 2003 Might Have Been

Columbia roars into orbit for the 28th and final time on 16 January 2003. Eighty-two seconds into the ascent, a chunk of foam from her External Tank would spell disaster for the outcome of STS-107. Photo Credit: NASA

Twelve years ago, last weekend, Shuttle Columbia and the crew of STS-107—Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie […]

'Up Against a Wall': What 1986 Might Have Been

The infamous image, flashed around the world on 28 January 1986, immediately after Challenger’s tragic destruction. The disaster stalled the shuttle program for almost three years and all crews, including the other missions planned for 1986, were stood down. Photo Credit: NASA

On three occasions in NASA’s history, the dawn of February has brought […]

'Open-Ended': What 1967 Might Have Been

The Apollo 1 crew, pictured during training, would have embarked on an open-ended mission of up to 14 days in duration in February-March 1967. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Figuratively and literally, February is a gloomy month, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere—a four-week period of darkness, plunging temperatures, and poor weather, with the […]

Farthest-Flying SpaceX Payload Set for Sunday Night Launch (Part 1)

DSCOVR mission logo. Image Credit: NOAA/NASA/U.S. Air Force

Conceived in a dream by a former Vice President of the United States, hamstrung by a rapidly increasing price tag, disparagingly nicknamed “a multi-million-dollar screen saver,” grounded in the wake of a steadily shrinking shuttle flight schedule and the Columbia disaster and finally revived and given a […]

'Lock the Doors': Remembering Columbia's Final Return to Earth

As evidenced by the clock on the main screen at 14:15:05 GMT (9:15:05 a.m. EST), this view of a tense Mission Control was acquired a quarter of an hour after the first sign of trouble … and a minute ahead of Columbia’s expected landing. By now, everyone was aware that all hope was gone […]