In the early morning hours of April 12, 1981, NASA launched is first Space Transportation System, or space shuttle, mission, carrying astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen into orbit.
Mission Commander John Youn had already flown in space four times, including a walk on the Moon in 1972. Bob Crippen, the pilot, was a Navy test pilot who would go on to command three future shuttle missions. But nothing either man had done or would do was quite like this.
On that spring morning – just 20 years to the day since Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space – all of that was yet to come. America had not launched a human into space in six years, and to that point every crewed space flight had followed the same basic design: put a capsule on top of a rocket, strap in the crew, fire the engines and go. After the mission, only the crew capsule – which wasn’t reused – would return.
Learn More About STS-1
Image Credit: NASA