Thursday, May 3, 2012

Witness To History: July 4th, 1982 Edwards AFB

Today we're going to break from the norm and are putting the 'Stuff' in 'Toys & Stuff'. This past week was another milestone in America's space program. Last week was a historic week as the Space Shuttle Enterprise made its way cross country sitting atop the specially modified NASA 747 one last time.  Here's the Wikipedia write-up:

On December 12, 2011, ownership of the Enterprise was officially transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. In preparation for the anticipated relocation, engineers evaluated the vehicle in early 2010 and determined that it was safe to fly on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft once again. At approximately 9:40 AM Eastern Daylight Time on April 27, 2012 Enterprise took off from Dulles International Airport en-route to a fly-by over the Hudson River, New York's JFK International Airport, the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, and several other landmarks in the city; in an approximately 45-minute "final tour". At 11:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time Enterprise touched down at JFK International Airport. From there it will be moved by barge to the Intrepid Museum.

On July 4th, 1982 a group of us stationed at George AFB, CA made the drive to Edwards AFB, CA to witness another historic event. Unlike last week's event which heralded the end of the Shuttle program, July 4th 1982 heralded the BEGINNING of the Shuttle program operations. Our little group made its way to the flightline where we were within feet of the NASA 747 with its precious cargo of the Challenger Space Shuttle perched atop. Then it was time for the Columbia to land. This was the fourth and last TEST flight of the Columbia and designated STS4. First, the two chase planes took off to meet the Shuttle. The approach of the Columbia was marked first by a sonic boom, after which it came slowly into view and made a long fast approach to the runway. After the landing the crowd made its way to the NASA hangar, in front of which the Space Shuttle Enterprise was parked. Within a short time President Reagan made his appearance. His speech marked the official beginning of Space Shuttle operations. While he was giving his speech, the 747 w/Shuttle Challenger took off and gave the crowd a thrill with a fairly low level fly-by. I believe this was the only time when three Shuttles were available together for public viewing. Enjoy!

STS-4 Brochure

Parking Pass

The specially modified NASA 747 with its precious cargo sitting atop.

The two chase planes taxiing prior to the Columbia landing.

The chase planes have taken off and have met up with the Columbia.

The Columbia has landed and we are now on our way to the Enterprise, passing one of NASA's experimental lifting body aircraft, the HL-10.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise

President Reagan in front of the Enterprise. It is this speech which officially transitions the Space Shuttle from a test program to an operational status.

While all the speeches were going on, the 747/Challenger duo was taking off. It was tricky trying to catch the aircraft action and the dignitaries at the podium.

The President and Mrs. Reagan look absolutely thrilled to be there!

As the President waves goodbye - ummm, unfortunately with his hand sticking out of that poor guy's head :-) - the 747/Challenger lash-up comes around for a second pass!