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  Sharing memories of space shuttle Columbia

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Author Topic:   Sharing memories of space shuttle Columbia
Jay Chladek

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 06-01-2011 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I thought I might as well continue the set of threads where people can post their memories of the shuttle fleet. And for this one, please keep it to memories that aren't necessarily related to STS-107. It is not that Columbia's last flight doesn't have a place here, but I am hoping to keep this thread a bit more upbeat. We all remember where we were when she burned up, but I want to read some other stories.

I have two Columbia related stories. My family used to live in San Antonio, TX when I was a kid. We were overseas when Columbia made its first trip through on its delivery flight from Palmdale (starting with an over the road trip to Edwards). As such, I didn't get to see that trip. But I was onhand at the fence line overlooking the runway at Kelly when the 747 with Columbia made a stop I "believe" may have been late 1981 after STS-2. I shot a couple Polaroids of the flyover, but I can't seem to locate them. Typical shuttle ferry procedure at the time was to have the pair do one flyover of the runway, do a wide circle, and next land. That fence line was certainly packed with people who wanted to get a glimpse of the shuttle, and the ferry crew certainly didn't disappoint.

The second time I saw Columbia up close was in 1985 as the shuttle was headed back to KSC from its first major OMDP refit. My family had moved to Bellevue, NE at the time when my dad retired and it was a bit of a surprise to hear that NASA was going to bring the shuttle this far north. Well, Offutt treated it like a mini airshow. They opened the flightline area (and put up rope off boundaries). So Dad and I were standing on 6the tarmac where we normally would for an airshow. I had my Polaroid and he had a new Betacam video camera to shoot video of the flyby. As the 747 and shuttle did its first pass, the PA system began to play music from Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan and I must say it was a pretty cool experience to watch as you hear Alexander Courage's 10 note fanfare playing at the front of the theme as the pair become visible in the distance. It sends goosebumps up my arms just thinking about it.

Final memory had to do with my very first model rocket that I built in 1981. I didn't know you could get rockets at craft stores, so I talked my folks into getting me an Estes Space Shuttle Columbia starter kit for my 11th birthday (I know the minimum age said 12, but I was motivated and had been building plastic models for a few years). We ordered it using a print ad in Boys Life magazine (I was a cub scout at the time). When it arrived, I spent the next few months building it and giving it a paintjob that resembled the box artwork. I didn't do a great job. It was built sturdy and looked like a shuttle, but I didn't use any sanding sealer on the fins and they were rough as ever (nice air drag). Its first two flights on the recommended low powered motors were not great as she was a bit heavy and I crammed way too much recovery wadding in it. But it survived. On the higher powered motors, she flew better.

To make a long story short, I tried to retire that rocket no less than five times from 1982 onwards. But after losing my other rockets, I would come back to patch up the Columbia and she gave me many more flights. As the rocket got more sooted up and stuff, it looked more and more like the real ship with its patina of reentry weathering. Her last flight was sometime in 1995-96 when I got back into rocketry for a time. The patched engine mount which had lost its hook long ago finally ejected its engine instead of the nose and she got flattened. I think the final launch tally was somewhere around 36 flights. It could be said though that I owe an entire hobby to the real space shuttle Columbia for giving me the desire to build my own for flight.


Posts: 121
From: Maryland
Registered: May 2010

posted 06-18-2011 07:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAngel   Click Here to Email SpaceAngel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The thing I'll remember about "Columbia" was watching the orbiter servicing Hubble; ironically, it would be the last successful mission before its destruction on STS-107...


Posts: 4046
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 04-12-2013 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's her first flight anniversary.


Posts: 262
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 04-14-2013 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First encounter with Columbia was way back in 1981. My brother and I went to The Cape for the maiden launch. Without a press pass or even an on-base pass we were determined to be there.

We camped out on the banks of Indian River in Titusville on Thursday night. Unfortunately, there were partiers seemingly everywhere; some with bonfires, and lots of drunken revelry late into the night. We could hardly get to sleep.

Friday morning, April 10th, turns out the launch was scrubbed late in the countdown. The shuttle's five onboard computers couldn't get in sync, the redundancy sequencer was acting up.

Later that day (or Saturday morning, can't recall - will have to check notes) we decided to go to the Visitors' Center. To our surprise and great joy and they were indeed running tours up around the pad. The busses did not stop and one rule for passengers which they emphasized and enforced was "The windows must not be opened." Got a few pics of Columbia on the pad that day with the RSS rolled back.

So, Saturday night we decided to find a different launch viewing spot. Perhaps some place with a little more discipline and a lot less noise would be nice. We found our way to just outside of CCAFS Gate 1 in Port Canaveral.

We drove our camper truck off-road to near the water's edge and hunkered down for the night. The only intrusions were from the AF Security crews which passed by occasionally.

Sunday morning, April 12th, came the big day and the second launch attempt. A local AM channel was broadcasting NASA audio. We heard George Diller give us the play-by-play from KSC. The bird finally took flight. Yes! From our vantage point some ten miles away looking north it was a beautiful sight. That was one fabulous day!

G_d Bless everyone at NASA who worked on the space shuttles and especially the astronauts who gave us 30 years of pride in their bravery, exploration, and technological achievements.

Jim Behling

Posts: 537
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 04-14-2013 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I actually slept in the middeck of Columbia. Before STS-28, I was supporting background radiation scans of Columbia for the SAM experiment. The equipment performing the scan had to be in the middeck for 30 hours and needed to be checked on every few hours. We were getting tired of going from the OPF breakroom, going into the OPF bay, suiting up in cleanrooms garments and going into the middeck. In the middle of the night, this became cumbersome. So, we decided just to stay in the middeck and campout.


Posts: 508
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 04-15-2013 12:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The first shuttle launch I attended was STS-9/Spacelab 1 with Columbia as the orbiter. I remember vividly arriving at the press site three miles away and pinching myself for finally viewing a NASA launch up close (I had requested car passes to view the Skylab station and ASTP Apollo launches but never had the chance to attend both).

Seeing a shuttle on the pad, with the countdown clock nearby and the press bleachers behind me (knowing the likes of Cronkite, Bergman and Neal tread through these same places) made the day special. And the launch was memorable, one of three I was privileged to attend.

All times are CT (US)

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