Challenger Takeoff, July 4, 1982
Space Shuttle Challenger takes off from Edwards Air Force Base on its way to Cape Kennedy, July 4, 1982.
With shuttles recently in the news, I remembered I had some historic photos.
It was a very patriotic day. Columbia had just completed its 4th successful flight. A special public viewing of the landing was scheduled on America's birthday, and I was there among the jubilant flag-waving crowd. We heard President Ronald Reagan speak from a podium in front of the shuttle Enterprise, and then we got to watch the shuttle Challenger take off aboard its Boeing 747 carrier on its way to Cape Kennedy. Three shuttles in one day! Actually--a fourth, too. My car had new plates: SP SHUTL, that got me onto the nightly news.
Challenger would take its first flight on April 4, 1983. It flew eight missions before the disaster on Jan. 28, 1986 that rocked the nation. After a period of grieving and a detailed investigation into the causes of the disaster, the shuttle program resumed with increased safety and continued on for another 25 years, until July 8, 2011. Columbia was destined for a second tragedy that occurred on January 16, 2003. Considering the risks of space flight, though, it is remarkable that those were the only accidents in 135 missions.
The surviving shuttles have been distributed to museums. Endeavor just arrived in Los Angeles to be proudly exhibited at the California Science Museum.