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STS-1 artifacts, 25 years later


April 12, 2006 -- Twenty-five years ago today, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched into history as the world's first winged orbital vehicle designed to be reusable. The STS-1 mission, with its two-man crew of John Young and Robert Crippen, introduced a new chapter for U.S. manned space flight efforts.

Whereas past and future milestone missions would trigger attempts to collect and preserve the artifacts created as a result, the nature of the Space Shuttle would greatly limit that from happening for STS-1.

Unlike the Apollo Command Module that shared its name, orbiter Columbia would not be destined for a museum. The STS-1 spacecraft would fly again seven months after its first flight, proving its reusability. However, before it could launch, OV-102 (as Columbia was also referred, for Orbiter Vehicle-102) needed some repair.


During its maiden space flight, Columbia lost 16 of its heat shield tiles and a further 148 had been damaged. The tiles and other components removed post-flight became one of the first artifacts to be saved of STS-1. Some of the white and black thermal barriers were kept intact and presented to VIPs such as Flight Director Eugene Kranz. Still others were sliced apart into small squares and encased in Lucite for distribution to team members as "Space Transportation System Mementos".

Similar presentations are known to have occurred for other replaced parts, including samples taken from Columbia's wing leading edge and landing gear tires. An unspecified amount of flown metal was mixed with ground-based alloy to mint commemorative medallions that NASA's Manned Flight Awareness Office then gifted to the employees and contractors responsible for the STS-1 mission's success.


Columbia itself would fly a total of 28 crews to orbit, each time taking with it much of the original vehicle that Young and Crippen flew on STS-1. In 2001, the orbiter's original switch-controlled cockpit was replaced with a new "glass" version. During the same 17-month refurbishment, 1,000 pounds of wiring and equipment used to monitor OV-102's early missions were removed and believed to have been scrapped (as with the majority of parts removed after each of Columbia's 27 successful flights).

Then in February 2003, while returning from its 28th flight to space, Columbia and its STS-107 crew of seven were lost during reentry. In the weeks and months that followed the break-up over Texas, nearly 84,000 pieces were found and identified. After the subsequent investigation finished analyzing the debris, the components were moved to the 16th floor of the building where Columbia was once readied for launch, where they remain today. The floor is closed to all but researchers and a small group of employees. NASA has also allowed key parts to be sent out for scientific and academic study.

Neither of the STS-1 crew members see a need or desire for parts of Columbia collected after the accident to be put on public display.

"I don't know why anyone would want to see old burned up parts," said Young in an interview with collectSPACE. "She was a great vehicle and I am just sorry it happened."

"I don't think it is appropriate to put her in that form on a public display," said Crippen in a separate collectSPACE interview. "She was a proud ship, one that I'm honored to have flown. Putting out the pieces would not have been the right thing to do."


Though Columbia is no longer flying, parts of the STS-1 launch vehicle continue to lift other orbiters skyward. The white-painted External Tank was purposely left to reenter and break apart after its use (as is the case with all tanks) but the twin solid rocket boosters — the first used for a manned space flight — were recovered and reused. Most recently, the uppermost cylinder of the left booster that launched the return to flight mission after Columbia's loss, STS-114, could be traced back to the April 1981 mission.

Beyond Columbia and its components as STS-1 artifacts, are the crew's equipment and personal items.

Both Young and Crippen donned for launch and landing modified pressure suits originally designed for the U.S. Air Force's SR-71 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The orange-brown outfit that Young wore is now on display at Space Center Houston, the public visitor center for NASA Johnson Space Center.

The similar suit that Crippen wore is believed to have been returned to the Air Force. Its present location is unknown. Crippen's STS-1 blue T-38 flight suit is among the artifacts held and displayed by the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida.


Young and Crippen both carried a Personal Preference Kit (PPK) that was limited to a combined total 2.5 pounds of personal items they flew for family members and friends. They each carried 20 items that included silver and gold medallions minted by The Robbins Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts (19 for Young, 14 for Crippen); a flag (by Crippen); rings (both Crippen for ascent flight director Neil Hutchinson, and Young "for Susy," his second wife); and wings (by Crippen, his own and for fellow USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory-then-NASA astronaut Bob Overmyer).

Most, if not all of the mementos the crew carried however, have since been given away.

"I don't think I have any, I gave away everything that I flew up. The intent at the time was taking up things for people that were special to me and I gave those to them when we got back down," said Crippen.

"I probably carried some flags and stuff," recounted Young. "If I do [have them], they are probably sitting in some safety deposit box somewhere."


STS-1 also carried an Official Flight Kit (OFK) containing presentation items that NASA, the crew and others would distribute post-flight. OFKs have flown on all subsequent shuttle missions and can be traced back to Apollo flights.

Notable among the STS-1 OFK contents (presented in its entirety below) were 10,000 small U.S. flags, which were later given to employees and VIPs much in the same way as the tiles and medallions mentioned earlier. These flags represent the most accessible of STS-1's artifacts today, with many museums and private collections including the nylon banners as their representative of the first mission.

The STS-1 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-1 Official Flight Kit manifest, as it is archived by NASA on February 4, 1981.

No.   Description   Recipient/Remarks
 
1.   Standard U.S. Flag   To be awarded by the Administrator to hang in Washington, D.C. at perhaps the Air and Space Museum or the Capital
 
2.   Standard U.S. Flag   To be hung at JSC
 
3.   10,000 small U.S. flags
(4" x 6" size)
  To be distributed in a manner similar to what was done on ALT
 
4.   1,000 medium size U.S. flags
(8" x 12")
  To be used as suitable mementos
 
5.   2,000 patches   To be used as suitable mementos
 
6.   Five sets of United Nations Members Flags (4"x6")   To be used as suitable mementos
 
7.   Five sets of state and territorial flags (4"x6")   To be used as suitable mementos
 
8.   Standard Flag of the City of Houston   To be awarded as appropriate
 
9.   Standard Flag of Texas   To be awarded as appropriate
 
10.   Standard Flag of Georgia Institute of Technology   To be awarded by John Young
 
11.   Standard Flag of Montgomery County, Texas   To be awarded by Robert Crippen
 
12.   Standard Flag of the University of Texas   To be awarded by Robert Crippen
 
13.   Standard Flag of the City of San Francisco   To be awarded by John Young
 
14.   Standard Flag of the City of Orlando, Florida   To be awarded by John Young
 
15.   National Aeronautics Association (NAA) Flight Certificate   To be awarded as appropriate
 
Items 16 through 28 will be awarded to participating astronauts in the STS-1 flight.
 
16.   Wings   Richard Truly
17.   Wings   Frederick Hauck
18.   Wings   Daniel Brandenstein
19.   Wings   James Buchli
20.   Wings   Joseph Allen
21.   Wings   Henry Hartsfield
22.   Wings   Terry Hart
23.   Wings   Karol Bobko
24.   Wings   Loren Shriver
25.   Wings   Richard Scobee
26.   Wings   Ellison Onizuka
27.   Wings   Frederick Gregory
28.   Wings   Joseph Engle
 
Items 29 through 112 will be awarded to the following astronauts.
 
29.   Medallion   Joseph P. Allen
30.   Medallion   James P. Bagian
31.   Medallion   Alan L. Bean
32.   Medallion   John E. Blaha
33.   Medallion   Guion S. Bluford, Jr.
34.   Medallion   Karol J. Bobko
35.   Medallion   Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
36.   Medallion   Vance D. Brand
37.   Medallion   Daniel C. Brandenstein
38.   Medallion   Roy D. Bridges, Jr.
39.   Medallion   James F. Buchli
40.   Medallion   Michael L. Coats
41.   Medallion   Richard O. Covey
42.   Medallion   Bonnie J. Dunbar
43.   Medallion   Anthony W. England
44.   Medallion   Joe H. Engle
45.   Medallion   John M. Fabian
46.   Medallion   Anna L. Fisher
47.   Medallion   William F. Fisher
48.   Medallion   Charles G. Fullerton
49.   Medallion   Dale A. Gardner
50.   Medallion   Guy S. Gardner
51.   Medallion   Owen K. Garriott
52.   Medallion   Robert L. Gibson
53.   Medallion   Ronald J. Grabe
54.   Medallion   Frederick D. Gregory
55.   Medallion   S. David Griggs
56.   Medallion   Terry J. Hart
57.   Medallion   Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr.
58.   Medallion   Frederick H. Hauck
59.   Medallion   Steven A. Hawley
60.   Medallion   Karl G. Henize
61.   Medallion   Jeffrey A. Hoffman
62.   Medallion   Joseph P. Kerwin
63.   Medallion   David C. Leestma
64.   Medallion   William B. Lenoir
65.   Medallion   Don L. Lind
66.   Medallion   John M. Lounge
67.   Medallion   Jack R. Lousma
68.   Medallion   Shannon W. Lucid
69.   Medallion   Thomas K. Mattingly
70.   Medallion   Jon A. McBride
71.   Medallion   Bruce McCandless II
72.   Medallion   Richard M. Mullane
73.   Medallion   George D. Nelson
74.   Medallion   Claude Niccolier
75.   Medallion   Wubbo J. Ockels
76.   Medallion   Ellison S. Onizuka
77.   Medallion   Robert F. Overmyer
78.   Medallion   Robert A. Parker
79.   Medallion   Jerry L. Ross
80.   Medallion   Francis R. Scobee
81.   Medallion   M. Rhea Seddon
82.   Medallion   Brewster H. Shaw, Jr.
83.   Medallion   Loren J. Shriver
84.   Medallion   Donald K. Slayton
85.   Medallion   Michael J. Smith
86.   Medallion   Sherwood C. Spring
87.   Medallion   Robert C. Springer
88.   Medallion   Robert L. Stewart
89.   Medallion   Kathryn D. Sullivan
90.   Medallion   Norman E. Thagard
91.   Medallion   William E. Thornton
92.   Medallion   Richard H. Truly
93.   Medallion   James D. Van Hoften
94.   Medallion   David M. Walker
95.   Medallion   Paul S. Weitz
96.   Medallion   Donald E. Williams
97.   Medallion   William A. Anders
98.   Medallion   Frank Borman
99.   Medallion   Gerald P. Carr
100.   Medallion   Eugene A. Cernan
101.   Medallion   R. Walter Cunningham
102.   Medallion   Charles M. Duke
103.   Medallion   Ronald E. Evans
104.   Medallion   Richard F. Gordon
105.   Medallion   Edward G. Gibson
106.   Medallion   Donald L. Holmquest
107.   Medallion   James B. Irwin
108.   Medallion   James A. Lovell
109.   Medallion   Edgar D. Mitchell
110.   Medallion   William R. Pogue
111.   Medallion   Stuart R. Roosa
112.   Medallion   Walter M. Schirra
 
Items 113 through 126 are under review with General Simkaitis at this time.
 
113.   Standard Presidential Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
114.   Standard Vice Presidential Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
115.   Standard Secretary of Defense Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
116.   Standard Secretary of the Air Force Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
117.   Standard Secretary of the Navy Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
118.   Standard Secretary of the Army Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
119.   Standard Marine Corps Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
120.   Standard Joint Chiefs of Staff Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
121.   Standard Chief of Naval Operations Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
122.   Standard Chief of Staff of the Air Force Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
123.   Standard U.S. Air Force Academy Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
124.   Standard U.S. Naval Academy Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
125.   Standard West Point Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
126.   Standard NATO (or AGARD) Flag   To be awarded as appropriate
 
Items 127 through 133 will be awarded to the following astronauts.
 
127.   Medallion   Harrison H. Schmitt
128.   Medallion   David R. Scott
129.   Medallion   Russell L. Schweickart
130.   Medallion   Alan B. Shepard
131.   Medallion   Thomas P. Stafford
132.   Medallion   John L. Swigert
133.   Medallion   Alfred M. Worden

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