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STS-1: the first space shuttle mission, April 12-14, 1981

Movie Number   EM-0084-01
Movie Date   April 12, 2011
Formats   640x486 QuickTime Movie (29 MB)
640x486 Closed Captioned QuickTime Movie (29 MB)
720x486 QuickTime Movie (153.3 MB)
Shuttle landing Still photos of this aircraft are available in several resolutions at

Space shuttle Columbia launched on the first space shuttle mission on April 12, 1981, a two-day demonstration of the first reusable, piloted spacecraft's ability to go into orbit and return safely to Earth. This video depicts the historic launch, in-orbit activity by astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen, and the vast crowds who witnessed the landing on Runway 23 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on April 14,1981.

After years of testing of Columbia and training the astronauts in simulators, the orbiter lifted off into space from the Kennedy Space Center on Florida's east coast, boosted by seven million pounds of thrust supplied by its solid-propellant rockets and liquid hydrogen fueled engines. The flight, one of four orbital flight tests by Columbia, served as a two-day flight demonstration of the first reusable, piloted spacecraft's ability to go into orbit and return safely to Earth.

Columbia carried as its main payload a developmental flight instrumentation pallet with instruments to record pressures, temperatures, and levels of acceleration at various points on the vehicle during launch, flight, and landing. In flight, Young and Crippen tested the spacecraft's on-board systems, fired the orbital maneuvering system for changing orbits, employed the reaction control system for controlling attitude, and opened and closed the payload doors. One of many cameras aboard--a remote television camera--revealed some of the thermal protection tiles had detached from the orbiter during launch.

As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere from space at Mach 24 - 24 times the speed of sound - after 36 orbits, aerodynamic heating built up to over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But at 188,000 feet and Mach 10, mission commander John W. Young and pilot Robert L. Crippen radioed that the orbiter was performing as expected.

Energy management on descent and landing the shuttles without power, and therefore without the weight penalty of additional engines and fuel, was based on previous experience with the X-15 rocket planes and the piloted lifting bodies that also landed without power at NASA's Flight Research Center, later named the Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA Dryden and Edwards Air Force Base had also hosted the approach and landing tests of the shuttle prototype Enterprise in 1977 and had tested the computers used for the shuttles' flight control systems in the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire aircraft, which also contributed to the solution of a dangerous pilot induced oscillation that occurred on the final approach and landing test.

Keywords   space shuttle; Columbia; John W. Young; Robert L. Crippen; orbital maneuvering system; reaction control system; payload doors; Dryden Flight Research Center; NASA; Edwards Air Force Base; Enterprise; F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire; lifting bodies; X-15; approach and landing tests; T-38; IUS; Inertial Upper Stage; Rockwell; Rocketdyne; Boeing; Thiokol; Martin Marietta; Lockheed Martin; Kennedy Space Center
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