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December 28, 2015 - Shuttle Era Crawls to a Start

Shuttle Era Crawls to a Start  Thirty-five years ago this week, the space shuttle Columbia left the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a 5.6 km (3.5 mi) journey to Launch Pad 39A. The trip took over seven hours atop the Crawler Transporter, the world’s largest moving land vehicle. Every space shuttle (as well as the Saturn V and IB launch vehicles before them) was carried to the launch pad on the Crawler, as wide as a twelve-lane highway. Once at the launch pad, Columbia underwent months of testing, including a twenty-second firing of its main engines, before it was cleared for its first launch on April 12, 1981. The external tanks of STS-1 and STS-2 were painted white; subsequent missions featured unpainted (orange) tanks which saved 270 kg (600 lbs) of weight.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

December 28, 2015 - January 3, 2016

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History


Moon phase Monday 28

Mercury at greatest elongation (20° E)

1882: Arthur Eddington born

Moon phase Tuesday 29

1980: STS-1 leaves Vehicle Assembly Building and rolls out to launch pad

Moon phase Wednesday 30

1957: Wernher von Braun proposes the Saturn-class launch vehicle

Moon phase Thursday 31

New Year's Eve

Jupiter 1.5° north of Moon

1864: Robert Aitken born
2004: Cassini makes first flyby of Iapetus

Moon phase Friday 1

New Year's Day

1801: Giuseppe Piazzi discovers asteroid Ceres

Moon phase Saturday 2

Last Qtr Moon 12:30 AM ET

1900: Leslie Peltier born
1920: Isaac Asimov born
1959: Luna 1 is first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravitational field
1972: Mariner 9 begins mapping Mars
2004: Stardust encounters Comet Wild 2

Moon phase Sunday 3

1962: NASA publicly announces and names Gemini program
2004: Mars rover Spirit lands

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.