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April 9, 1996

Steve Nesbitt
Johnson Space Center
713 483-5111

Release: 96-011

NASA Marks 15th Anniversary of First Space Shuttle Flight

NASA's Johnson Space Center will celebrate the accomplishments of the Space Shuttle program this Friday, 15 years after the Space Shuttle Columbia’s inaugural launch April 12, 1981.

Astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen took Columbia on a two day mission to test the new space vehicle1s capabilities, opening up a program that has included 76 missions. The first flight ended as scheduled with a landing April 14 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

A celebration will be held Friday at Space Center Houston in conjunction with a weekend Russian Festival sponsored by the City of Nassau Bay. April 12 also is the 35th anniversary of the first human-piloted space flight, the 1961 mission of Russian Yuri Gagarin. Nassau Bay is the sister city of Russia1s Star City, the home of Russian astronauts.

The event will feature entertainers and exhibits celebrating the joint space activities of the two nations. American and Russian speakers will be featured on a program which will include a special message from astronaut Shannon Lucid aboard the Russian Space Station Mir.

Media who are interested in covering the event should contact Steve Nesbitt at JSC, 483-5111. For further information on the Russian Festival, contact Mary Jo Naschke at 409 762-3930.

Since that first Shuttle flight, five spacecraft of the same design have been launched on a total of 76 missions. Columbia and her sister ships Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour have orbited the Earth 9,579 times in 604 days and covered approximately 243 million miles.

In the Shuttle program1s first 15 years, the orbiters have carried over 9,000 tons of cargo and 220 people into space.

Space Shuttles will continue to play a key role in the exploration and development of space for years to come including transporting components of the International Space Station to orbit during its assembly.


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