This Day in History
Touchdown of the Space Shuttle Columbia

Touchdown of Space Shuttle Columbia, 14 April 1981, 10:20:53 PST

On April 12, 1981, millions throughout the world watched an American Adventure begin as the Space Shuttle Columbia, riding atop a column of fire, rose into a clear Florida sky. The historic launch was yet another demonstration of our country’s technological leadership.

Pride in our nation’s remarkable achievement is certainly justified. The creation of the first generation of reusable spacecraft, opening outer space and its vast resources for productive development, took years of research and utilized the talent and imagination of thousands of Americans. As the designer and builder of the Space Shuttle, Rockwell International worked with hundreds of other American companies and their highly talented people to invent new materials and new processes to meet this unprecedented challenge.

The three main engines of the Shuttle orbiter can be reused up to 55 times. Columbia carries a computer system so sophisticated it encompasses guidance, navigation, communications, systems performance monitoring and payload handling. In addition, the spacecraft’s innovative heat shield is recognized as a major breakthrough in thermal protection.

The Columbia touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in California on April 14, 1981 at 10:20:53PST.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.