By Anna Heiney,
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center
When astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen visited Kennedy Space Center on April 6, they knew the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle's maiden voyage would be the primary topic of conversation. But they didn't know the center had a surprise planned for them.
At the conclusion of a question-and-answer session with employees, the space veterans learned Kennedy's Firing Room 1 has been renamed the Young-Crippen Firing Room as a tribute to their work in making STS-1 the boldest test flight in history.
On the morning of April 12, 1981, a NASA and contractor team of 200 anxious launch controllers sat huddled at their consoles inside the historic firing room, watching excitedly as the countdown gave way to a successful liftoff of Columbia and its two-man crew: Young, the flight's commander, and Crippen, who served as pilot.
Nearly 25 years later, Young and Crippen spent an afternoon at Kennedy to share their experiences on the trailblazing STS-1 mission with an audience of more than 300 workers, including many who have been a part of the space program since the days of Apollo and even Gemini.
As the discussion drew to a close, the crowd was treated to a video in which Center Director Jim Kennedy was joined by Norm Carlson, NASA test director for STS-1, and Bob Sieck, a project flight engineer during STS-1 who eventually served as shuttle launch director.
"Well, John and Crip, this is a tribute not only to you but the whole KSC team that was part of the STS-1 effort," Sieck said while standing near a new plaque in the Launch Control Center with Carlson and Kennedy.
"You were the highly visible members of the team that we were all privileged to be members of, and this is a tribute to you and the old team. We're doing this in the Launch Control Center next to Firing Room 1 because this is not only where all the test and checkout was performed, but where the launch team members were privileged to put the finishing touches on that great effort," he added.
The plaque reads: "On the 25th anniversary of STS-1, April 12, 1981, the first orbital test flight of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, we proudly name firing room 1 the Young-Crippen Firing Room in tribute to John W. Young, commander, and Robert L. Crippen, pilot."
The firing room's glass door also bears the name, etched in gold lettering.