STS-1: 30 Years Ago Today


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From “Bold They Rise” by David Hitt and Heather R. Smith, forthcoming the University of Nebraska Press:

“Before we did STS-1, there had been some, I guess, things going on in the States,” (said Bob Crippen, the pilot of the first space shuttle flight.) “The morale of the United States, I don’t think, was very high. We’d essentially lost the Vietnam War. We had the hostages held in Iran. The President had just been shot. I think people were wondering whether we could do anything right. [STS-1] was truly a morale booster for the United States, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was welcomed by what I would call our allies abroad. So it was obvious that it was a big deal. It was a big deal to the military in the United States, because we planned to use the vehicle to fly military payloads. So it was something that was important. I feel, still feel, that the Space Shuttle is important. I don’t know that I had to impress that on any of my crews. I think they saw it for themselves, that what they were doing was important work that needed to be done.”

Crippen said that STS-1, and human spaceflight, provided a positive rallying point for the American people at the time, and that human space exploration continues to have that effect for many today. “A great many of the people in the United States still believe in the space program. Some think it’s too expensive. Perspective-wise, it’s not that expensive, but I believe that most of the people that have come in contact with the space program come away with a very positive feeling. Sometimes if they have only seen it on TV, maybe they don’t really understand it, and there are some negative vibes out there from some individuals, but most people, certainly the majority, I think, think that we’re doing something right, and it’s something that we should be doing, something that’s for the future, something that’s for the future of the United States and mankind.”

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