Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S)

“Read this book to experience the Space Shuttle as it matured. Smith and Hitt tap sources that made this aerospace wonder’s early history. You’ll feel the needs and wants of those involved; the joys and sadness that came with conceiving, building, and flying this vehicle. It’s a trip—I know.”

—Charles D. Walker, engineer, corporate executive, first commercial industry astronaut,

“Although the shuttle program has now run its course, this wonderful book brings back the awe, the inspiration, the promise, and the sadness associated with the early history of those magnificent vehicles and the teams of ground and flight crews that flew them.”

—Jerry L. Ross (Col.,
, Ret.),
, -27, -37, -55, -74, -88, and -110, and author of
Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as
’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer

“A rich, engaging account of the first years of the Space Shuttle era,
Bold They Rise
recounts the development and pioneering missions of a truly magnificent flying machine that helped open the door to space for scienti
such as myself.”

—Donald A. Thomas,
-83, and

Bold They Rise

Outward Odyssey
A People’s History of Spaceflight

Series editor
Colin Burgess

Bold They Rise

The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972–1986

David Hitt and Heather R. Smith | Foreword by Bob Crippen

University of Nebraska Press • Lincoln and London

© 2014 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska

Cover image courtesy

All rights reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hitt, David.

Bold they rise: the space shuttle early years, 1972–1986 / David Hitt and Heather R. Smith; foreword by Bob Crippen.

pages cm.—(Outward odyssey. A people’s history of spaceflight)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

978-0-8032-2648-7 (hardcover: alk. paper)—
978-0-8032-5549-4 (epub)—
978-0-8032-5556-2 (mobi)—
978-0-8032-5548-7 (pdf (web))

1. Space Shuttle Program (U.S.) 2. Space shuttles—United States—History. 3. Manned space flight—History. I. Smith, Heather R. II. Title. III. Title: Space shuttle early years, 1972–1986.

58 2014



The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

To Finn, Caden, Bethany, Nathan, Lillian, Lila Grace, Will, Baxter, Amelia, Andrew, Peyton, Sabrina, Kean, Elliott, Rhys, Daniel, Lainey, and millions of other children who will be the ones to carry on the exploration of tomorrow.

They venture forth, into the spangled night

Lured inexorably by dreams;

With vision

And resolve

To go beyond the quest of yesterday

Bold they rise, these winged emissaries

To wonders transcendent;

With audacity

And faith

In the divine promise of tomorrow.

Colin Burgess, “Bold They Rise”


List of Illustrations




1. The Feeling of Flying

2. In the Beginning


4. Getting Ready to Fly

5. First Flight

6. The Demonstration Flights

7. Open for Business

8. The Next Steps

9. Science on the Shuttle

10. Secret Missions

11. People and Payloads

12. The Golden Age

13. To Touch the Face of God



About the Authors


1. John Young and Bob Crippen inside Space Shuttle

2. Richard “Dick” Truly and Guion Bluford sleep on
’s mid-deck

3. Space Shuttle design evolution, 1972–74

4. Possible configurations considered for the Space Shuttle, as of 1970

5. An early depiction of the Space Shuttle

6. Space Shuttle vehicle testing in the fourteen-foot Transonic Wind Tunnel

7. A worker removes a tile as part of routine maintenance activities

8. Astronauts training to experience weightlessness on board the

9. The first female astronaut candidates in the U.S. space program

10. An aerial view of
hoisted into the Dynamic Test Stand

11. The Space Shuttle
participating in approach and landing tests

12. Space Shuttle
poised for takeoff of

-1 crew members John Young and Bob Crippen

14. Space Shuttle
arrives at Launchpad 39
on 29 December 1980

15. The launch of
-1 on 12 April 1981

16. The Space Shuttle
glides in for landing

17. Aerial view of the launch of

18. President Ronald Reagan talks to Joe Engle and Richard Truly

19. The deployment of the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

20. Sally Ride on the flight deck during

in orbit with the remote manipulator system arm

22. Guion Bluford exercises on the treadmill during

23. Bruce McCandless using the Manned Maneuvering Unit

24. James van Hoften and George Nelson on a spacewalk

25. Dale Gardner after retrieving two malfunctioning satellites

26. Robert Parker, Byron Lichtenberg, Owen Garriott, and Ulf Merbold

27. The Spacelab in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle

28. The crew of

29. Judy Resnik with several cameras floating around her

30. Jerry Ross on a spacewalk

31. Crew members of mission
stand in the White Room at Launchpad 39

32. On 28 January 1986, icicles draped the launch complex

33. Photograph taken a few seconds after the loss of


After John Young and I made the first flight of the Space Shuttle aboard
all those years ago, people would sometimes ask me what the best part of the flight was. I would always use John’s classic answer: “The part between takeoff and landing.”

Now that it’s all said and done, I think that describes what the best part of the Space Shuttle program was: the part between our first launch in April 1981 and the last landing in July 2011.

There were some low points in between, particularly the loss of both of the orbiters I had the privilege to fly and their crews, but as a whole I think the shuttle has been one of the most marvelous vehicles that has ever gone into space—a fantastic vehicle unlike anything that’s ever been built.

The Space Shuttle has carried hundreds of people into space and delivered hundreds of tons of payloads into space. The shuttle gave us the
probes, which opened our eyes to new worlds, and it let us not only launch the Hubble Space Telescope but also repair and upgrade it time and time again, and Hubble has revolutionized our understanding of not only our solar system but the entire universe. The shuttle carried a lot of classified military payloads early on that probably helped the United States win the Cold War.

The Space Shuttle let us build the International Space Station. The Space Station is an incredible accomplishment, a marvelous complex, but it was the Space Shuttle that taught us that we could build a complicated space vehicle and make it work very well. The Space Station would not have been possible without the Space Shuttle.

But in those early days, I think the shuttle did something else, a little less concrete but just as important. The late ’70s and early ’80s weren’t really a great time for the United States. We’d basically lost the Vietnam War. We’d been through economic hard times, through the hostage crisis in Iran.
President Reagan was shot just before our flight on
-1. And morale for a lot of people in the country was really low. People were feeling like things just weren’t going right for us.

And that first flight, it was obvious that it was a big deal. It was a big thing for
, but it was a big thing for the country. It wasn’t just our accomplishment at
; it was an American accomplishment. It was a morale booster for the United States. It was a rallying point for the American people. And the awareness may not be as high now as it was then, but I think that’s still true today. I think you saw that when the shuttle made its last flight; the pride people had in what it had accomplished and the fact that a million people watched it. When I talk to people, they think space exploration is something we need to be doing, for the future of the United States and humankind.

The retirement of the shuttle was kind of bittersweet for me. I’m proud of all it’s accomplished, and I’m sorry to see it end. But I believe in moving on. I’d like to see us get out of Earth orbit and go back to the moon, and to other destinations, and eventually to Mars.

John and I got to see a lot of the development of the Space Shuttle firsthand. As astronauts, we were involved from an operations standpoint, and as the first crew, John and I visited the sites where they were working on the shuttle, getting it ready to fly. We had an outstanding, dedicated team, people who really believed they were doing something important for the nation. When we finally got into the shuttle for that first flight, meeting those thousands of people gave me a lot of confidence that we had a good vehicle to fly on.

I never expected to be selected for that first flight. I thought they would pick someone more experienced to fly with John. I was excited that they picked me, and I was honored to be a part of that flight. All told, that flight was the beginning of something truly amazing, and I’m honored to be one of the thousands of people who made it happen.

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