The Columbia was always my favorite shuttle because it was the only shuttle that had ever landed at White Sands, New Mexico (just like they did in Space Camp.) I can’t say exactly why, but for some reason I thought that was super cool.
Let’s share cool bits of Columbia lore.
I’ve got one.
I was in college when John Young and Bob Crippen took Columbia up the first time. We had TV sets on all over campus, because being the first manned launch since the end of Apollo / Apollo-Soyuz / Skylab, it was exciting to see a return to spaceflight by the United States.
We watched the launch and followed the landing two days later.
I’ll never forget Crippen and Young getting out of the orbiter on the ground at Edwards AFB and being like school kids in how happy they were about how the spacecraft had performed. They walked around the orbiter, smiles as wide as could be, kicking the tires and punching victorious fists in the air. They were being very “un-NASA”, but they didn’t care - they were two pilots who had just taken a brand new craft through its paces and they were proud of “their baby.”
And let’s not forget that Columbia’s last completed mission was STS-109, servicing mission 3B on the Hubble Space Telescope - the installation of the advanced camera for surveys.
28 launches. 28 successful missions. 27 successful landings. Lots of history made in between.
Rest in Peace