Ric and I headed out in April 1981 to capture the flight of the first Columbia landing at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. This photo was taken on it's way back from the dry lakebed in California.
We couldn't get in the gates and had to be happy with an area where houses had been demolished to make way for landing strips. As it turned out, it was the perfect vantage point and Ric captured this fantastic shot of it coming in. Thought you might enjoy seeing it on this last day of it's landing. Enjoy!
Rockwell International's (formerly North American Aviation/North American Rockwell, now Boeing North America) principal assembly facility in Palmdale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Columbia was named after the American sloop Columbia Rediviva which, from 1787 to 1793, under the command of Captain Robert Gray,
explored the US Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel
to circumnavigate the globe. It is also named after the Command Module of Apollo 11, the first manned landing on another celestial body. Also, in Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, the moonshot is accomplished by firing the spacecraft from a giant cannon in Florida called a columbiad. So, even here, Steampunk seems a bit involved!
The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) was commanded by John Young, a Gemini and Apollo veteran who was the ninth person to walk on the Moon in 1972, and piloted by Robert Crippen, a rookie astronaut originally selected to fly on the military's Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) spacecraft, but transferred to NASA after its cancellation, and served as a support crew member for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz missions.
Columbia spent 610 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility
(OPF), another thirty-five days in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB),
and 105 days on Pad 39A before finally lifting off. Columbia was successfully launched on April 12, 1981, the 20th anniversary of the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1), and returned on April 14, 1981, after orbiting the Earth 36 times, landing on the dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California.