The Planetary SocietyApr 07, 2021

The Space Shuttle Turns 40

The Space Shuttle had never launched with or without a crew when astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen climbed aboard Columbia on 12 April 1981. Their bold, two-day test flight made history and ushered in NASA's 30-year shuttle era.

The Planetary Society is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch with exclusive resources, interviews, and personal stories. Bookmark this page at

The First Shuttle Pilot

Bob Crippen piloted Columbia to orbit and back during its two-day test flight in 1981. Crippen describes the experience in an exclusive interview for our Planetary Radio podcast.

Space Shuttle Astronaut Bob Crippen Describes Columbia's First Flight: "A Moment of Pure Excitement"

NASA astronaut Bob Crippen joins Mat Kaplan on Planetary Radio to look back at the Space Shuttle's first flight.

Space Shuttle Pictures

Browse beautiful images of the shuttle in our Space Image Library.

Columbia Touches Down
Columbia Touches Down Space Shuttle Columbia touches down on the dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California, concluding its first mission on 14 April 1981.Image: NASA

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