Sunday, August 19, 2012

STS-1 causeway pass and brochure

This week, some mementos of the first space shuttle launch.

On 12 April 1981—the twentieth anniversary of the first human spaceflight—space shuttle Columbia launched on STS-1, the first orbital test flight of the Space Transportation System. The flight was originally intended to have taken place in June 1979.

Thirty years later, it’s perhaps easy to forget just how revolutionary the space shuttle was, how utterly unlike any previous spacecraft. The delays in the program were due to the need to develop completely new technologies that a re-usable spacecraft demanded. Two key technologies that accounted for a large proportion of the delays were a heat shield that would not be sacrificed during re-entry, and engines that could be fired around fifty times when all previous similar engines were designed to be fired just once.

This brochure, issued by the Kennedy Space Center, describes the space shuttle, outlines the mission profile for STS-1, and introduces the crew:

This pass allowed a spectator’s vehicle onto the NASA Causeway to watch the launch. Ten kilometres (six miles) from the launch pad, this was the closest that the public could get to the pad.

Today, in 2012, there’s a certain amount of hand-wringing that NASA does not presently have human spaceflight capability, despite the work currently proceeding on various designs for the Commercial Crew Program and on the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle. It’s worth remembering that by the time STS-1 launched, America had been without human spaceflight capability for nearly six years—the last flight had been the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project of July 1975.

Copyright information: the brochure and pass are works of NASA. As works of the United States federal government, they are in the public domain.

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