Space Shuttle Columbia Missions

Published: 1981
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Nick Charles: On April 14th, the Space Shuttle Columbia touched down on a desert strip in California, beginning a new age in space. Bob Foss relives that magic moment …

Bob Foss: "The nose wheel is down, the Space Shuttle has landed! What a magnificent sight it is out here. The chase planes came right down with it and they're now flying off. The Space Shuttle Columbia, the first of its kind, has just made an absolutely picture-perfect landing on this dry lakebed."

Nick Charles: Seven months later to the day, another successful launch and landing; but James Buchanan tells us problems plagued the second mission …

James Buchanan: "It was around 1:18 Pacific time Saturday, November 14th. Through a wispy cloud cover came the Space Shuttle Columbia, about to make history at 1:22 by becoming the first space vehicle to make a second landing on Earth.

"The second flight of Columbia was troubled even before the launch. Originally scheduled to fly over the month earlier, tiles were broken when the coupling device failed. Then after those problems were fixed, another launch was scheduled. Then November 4th, 31 seconds before launch, more problems, a delay of a week. Finally Thursday, November 12th, a picture-perfect second launch of Columbia; but after launch, the problems began. A failed fuel cell was the major problem. That was responsible for cutting short the planned five-day mission. And when that afternoon landing time was established, it was none too certain. Weather conditions were not optimal here at Edwards Air Force Base. Landing day began with a thick, high overcast; but by early afternoon, big blue patches of sky appeared and there it was: Columbia gliding to a gentle touchdown on Rogers dry lakebed to become the first manned craft in history to fly into space and return to Earth twice.

"James Buchanan, Edwards Air Force Base, California."

Nick Charles: NASA officials reported the completion of most of the Shuttle's objectives and sent Columbia back to Cape Canaveral to prepare for its third launch.