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Space Shuttle Columbia blasts off

"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four..." And the Space Shuttle Columbia has blasted off! It's April 12, 1981, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States has just launched its first space shuttle. In this CBC-TV news report, we learn that, despite one inconsequential glitch -- 15 protective tiles (out of 30,000) on the hull have come off -- Columbia's debut launch has been a grand success. Spectators at Florida's Cape Canaveral are clearly impressed. "What does it mean to me? A whole opening up of a new world," says one smiling lady in the crowd.
• NASA began preliminary work on the space shuttle program in the late 1960s, with the program officially commencing in 1972 under U.S. President Richard Nixon. The goal was to devise a cost-effective way for NASA, the department of defence, and other commercial and scientific users to access outer space.

• Members of the Canadian rock band Rush were on hand to witness the 1981 launch of Columbia. They were so impressed that they wrote a song about it - the song Countdown on the 1982 album Signals was inspired by the launch.

• Space Shuttle Columbia was launched into orbit a total of 28 times over 22 years. It spent 300.74 days in space, completed 4,808 orbits, and flew 201,497,772 kilometres in total.

• Columbia's final flight was a disastrous one. On Feb. 1, 2003, just as the shuttle was concluding its mission, it disintegrated during re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. All seven crew members on board died.

• The Columbia disaster was the second such disaster during the shuttle program's history. In January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after its launch. All seven crew members died instantly.

• There have been a total of five different shuttles throughout NASA's shuttle program history: Columbia (1981 to 2003), Challenger (1983 to 1986), Discovery (1984 to 2011), Atlantis (1985 to 2011) and Endeavour (1992 to 2011).

• After 30 years in operation, the space shuttle program is coming to an end in 2011. The final NASA shuttle flight, which will be undertaken by Space Shuttle Atlantis, is scheduled for July 8, 2011. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 12, 1981
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Terry Milewski
Duration: 3:31

Last updated: September 18, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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