April 11, 2011 - First Flight

First Flight Thirty years ago this week the world got a look at the future of space travel as Columbia, the first reusable space shuttle, made its epic inaugural flight. In a symbolic twist of fate, Columbia’s launch occurred on the twentieth anniversary of the first human space flight in history, that of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen put Columbia through its paces during the two-day mission, becoming the first space travelers to fly back from Earth orbit in a winged spacecraft. Columbia flew again seven months later, becoming the first piloted spacecraft to fly in space twice. Over the next two decades, Columbia flew a total of twenty-seven successful missions, but was destroyed upon reentering the atmosphere at the end of its twenty-eighth mission, STS-107, on February 1, 2003.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

April 11-17, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Monday 11

First Quarter Moon 8:05 AM ET

1960: Project Ozma started
1970: Apollo 13 launched
1980: Viking 2 lander mission ends
1984: Challenger retrieves Solar Max
1986: Halley’s Comet closest to Earth

Tuesday 12

1961: Yuri Gagarin first human in space
1981: STS-1 Columbia launched
1985: STS-51D Discovery launched

Wednesday 13

Thursday 14

1629: Christiaan Huygens born
1972: KSC and Vandenberg AFB picked as shuttle launch sites
2005: Expedition 11 crew launched to International Space Station

Friday 15

1999: Landsat 7 launched

Saturday 16

1867: Wilbur Wright born
: First captured V2 rocket launched from White Sands, NM
1965: First test-firing of Saturn V rocket first stage (S-IC)
1972: Apollo 16 launched

Sunday 17

Full Moon 10:44 PM ET
Moon at perigee
Saturn 8° north of Moon

1967: Surveyor 3 launched
1969: First X-24A lifting body glide test
1970: Apollo 13 crew returns to Earth
1998: STS-90 Columbia launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.