Planetary Radio • Apr 07, 2021

The First Space Shuttle Pilot: Bob Crippen on the 40th Anniversary of STS-1

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Robert crippen portrait

Robert Crippen

Retired NASA astronaut and aerospace executive

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

Pilot Bob Crippen and Commander John Young became the first astronauts to fly a Space Shuttle into orbit on April 12, 1981. Crippen tells host Mat Kaplan about that mission and shares many more stories from his adventurous life. Mat was standing on the dry lake bed in the California desert when STS-1 returned to Earth. Planetary Society senior space policy advisor Casey Dreier brings additional perspective to this anniversary, and it’s a space poetry festival when Bruce Betts arrives with this week’s What’s Up segment.

Bob Crippen
Bob Crippen Astronaut Bob Crippen piloted the first Space Shuttle flight on 12 April 1981.Image: Gordon Auld / The Planetary Society
The boldest test flight in history
The boldest test flight in history John Young (left) and Bob Crippen pose for a crew portrait prior to STS-1, the first flight of space shuttle Columbia, in April 1981.Image: NASA
STS-1 rollout
STS-1 rollout STS-1 - Orbiter Columbia - rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. This was the first Space Shuttle mission rollout.Image: NASA
Young and Crippen aboard Columbia
Young and Crippen aboard Columbia Astronauts John Young (left) and Bob Crippen (right) sit in the cockpit of Space Shuttle Columbia prior to its first flight on 12 April 1981.Image: NASA / Edited by The Planetary Society

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Trivia Contest

This week's prize:

A copy of Mars in the Movies: A History, by Thomas Kent Miller

This week's question:

What famous band was so moved by viewing the launch of STS-1 that they wrote a song about it?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at https://www.planetary.org/radiocontest or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, April 14th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Name all the people who flew in space while serving in the U.S. Congress.

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The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the 24 March 2021 space trivia contest:

What part of the International Space Station is named after a chess piece?

Answer:

The International Space Station’s Bishop airlock from Nanoracks is named after a chess piece.

Transcript

Mat Kaplan: He piloted the first space shuttle into orbit 40 years ago. Bob Crippen, this week on planetary radio. Welcome, I'm Matt Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. One of those very special conversations this week, Bob Crippen will tell us about sitting next to STS-1 commander John Young in Columbia, as they counted down to history. It was April 12 1981, exactly 20 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. By the way, happy Yuri's Night everyone. Bob will also tell us about his other space shuttle missions and the colleagues he flew with, along with much more about a life well lived and the spaceships he still misses.

Mat Kaplan: Planetary Society Chief Advocate, Casey Dreier, will get our shuttle anniversary started in moments with a taste of his fascinating look back at what the shuttle program actually cost. It may surprise you and surprise! This week's what's up visit with Bruce Betts, becomes a space poetry festival as an unprecedented number of you turned your contest entries into rhymes. It's great fun. You know what else is going to be fun? Watching a helicopter takeoff from the surface of Mars. Ingenuity is now standing on its own four feet in Jezero crater, after being dropped from the belly of the perseverance rover. Everything checks out so far with that first flight possibly happening in a few days. The tiny early bird tops the April 2 edition of the down lake and is followed by these headlines.

Mat Kaplan: Few earth is safe from asteroid hypothesis for at least another 100 years. We already knew that will pass closer than geostationary satellites in 2029, the concern was about it's 2068 Pass. Radar observations have now allowed officials to sound the all clear. The United Arab Emirates hope spacecraft has achieved its final science orbit around Mars. The mission will deliver a complete picture of the Red Planet's climate. These stories and more about that elusive Phosphine on Venus, if it's really there, are waiting for you at planetary.org/downlink. Here's Casey Dreier, Casey is the planetary society's chief advocate and our senior space policy adviser.

Mat Kaplan: Casey Dreier, great timing to join us as part of this celebration of the 40th anniversary of that first space shuttle mission, you have worked some of your magic once again and it could be seen at planetary.org. Tell us about this newer page, this newer research that you have posted?

Casey Dreier: Well, I figured 40th anniversary of the shuttle. I love budget numbers. And I love knowing how much it took to make something. So let's combine the two and we have a new data set that we've made available for free to anyone to use, very detailed demonstrating the cost of the shuttle, to develop it, to get it ready for Bob's first flight. And then also really, which I think is new broken up by major components, so how much did it cost to figure out how to make the external tank, the solid rocket boosters, the RS-25 Engines, the orbiter itself and of course, all of the construction of facilities that they had to upgrade around the country to basically shift NASA from its Apollo paradigm into the shuttle paradigm, in which it would stay for almost 40 years, really from 1972 until 2011 with the last flight of the shuttle.

Mat Kaplan: Man, are you correct talking about that infrastructure. I remember the first time I went out to Edwards during the approach and landing test, and saw this gigantic structure that had been built just to lift the shuttle onto the back of the 747. This was a real paradigm shift.

Casey Dreier: It was. I mean, and it's important to remember how big of a deal this was. It was almost a 10-year endeavor, right? Starting in '72 when Nixon approved the program, to its first flight in 81. NASA had to fundamentally restructure itself to deal with a re-usable space shuttle, to deal with launching and landing frequently in order to process the shuttle to get it ready to take payloads into Earth orbit. And to deal with the shuttle after it came back, to re-purpose it in order to clean it up and get it ready to launch again. All of this stuff was new. And they kind of took the existing infrastructure they had developed out for Apollo and reconfigured it specifically for the shuttle orbiter and its major components.

Casey Dreier: And that just takes money to figure out how to do that and to build it. And I believe this is the first time we're seeing both the cost of research and development for the shuttle added to and incorporating the cost of constructing the facilities, which again, if you don't have an Orbiter Processing Facility, you don't have a space shuttle launch, right? So it's all part and parcel of the same program.

Mat Kaplan: Great stuff, we will put a direct link up to Casey's new page from this week's episode page of planetary.org/radio. And you might want to take a look at his little summing up of the day of action. He's got a piece about that at planetary.org as well. We talked about all of this at much greater length in the new space policy addition that appeared on April... What was it, April 2nd. Casey, great conversation.

Casey Dreier: Oh, absolutely. If you love hearing me talk, you will not be disappointed in the Space Policy addition, I go on at length about this. One more thing, can I make a point about the shuttle now, which I think is kind of interesting to think about. If you adjust the cost of the shuttle into today's dollars, it's about $49 billion to build out that program, to develop the shuttle to get from nothing to the first few test launches. That really, I think, puts into perspective what we're seeing with things like the SLS and Orion, which they're not cheap. But if you add them together, they're actually less than 40 billions. They're cheaper than the cost of the space shuttle. NASA's major human spaceflight projects in the past, Apollo shuttle, SLS, Orion, they're not cheap but actually they're trending down cheaper. And the big question now as obviously with these commercial programs, you can do maybe even way cheaper. But it certainly adds some interesting perspective into how NASA has approached these programs in the past.

Mat Kaplan: Great insights as always, Casey. I happen to know that in addition to loving to build and work with budget numbers, you like to build other stuff too. Have you received your new LEGO kit yet?

Casey Dreier: I have not gotten the new, I've ordered it, I have not yet gotten the new space shuttle LEGO Special Edition. However, I did not wait. I'm just on my hands waiting for that to come. I dug out of my old childhood box of LEGOs. I dug out the original or one of the old LEGO shuttle sets, I believe from 1992. It was a shuttle with solid rocket boosters and even had a little satellite in it, completely out of proportion. I could nitpick that thing to death for how not exactly that is. But it does have a little red tower. It does have a little processing door that closes over the shuttle. And I was able to re-construct almost the entire set after probably 30 years. So as my little homage to the shuttle, again, as a child of the shuttle, that's the spacecraft. That was NASA to me when I was growing up as a kid. So, that was fun experience to re-create.

Mat Kaplan: Can't wait to see you tweet out photos of those two spatial models next to each other, Casey. Looking forward to it and looking forward to talking again soon.

Casey Dreier: Thanks, Mat. See you later.

Mat Kaplan: Casey Dreier, he is our senior Space Policy Advisor and the chief advocate at the Planetary Society.

Speaker 3: T minus 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, we've gone for main engine start, we have [inaudible 00:07:56] America's first Space Shuttle, and the shuttle has cleared the tower.

Mat Kaplan: April 12 1981. I was watching, tens of millions around the world were watching, commanded by John young and piloted by our guest Bob Crippen, Columbia would achieve low Earth orbit, perform almost flawlessly for two days, six hours, 20 minutes and 53 seconds before landing as no spacecraft returning from orbit ever had, on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. The shuttle era had begun. Bob Crippen would take the commander's seat for three more missions. He would later run the shuttle program from NASA Headquarters before becoming director of the Kennedy Space Center and then achieving new success in the aerospace industry.

Mat Kaplan: He's retired now and as you are about to hear, he remains immensely proud of his time in the shuttle of the men and women he served with and of the shuttle, the space transportation system itself. I'm afraid the recording of our recent conversation is not up to our usual technical standards, but the content of that conversation has already made it one that I will always treasure. Bob, when I told my Planetary Society colleagues that I'd be talking with you, they were kind of awestruck. Frankly, so as I. Thank you very much for being our guest on Planetary Radio.

Bob Crippen: Happy to be here.

Mat Kaplan: We're going to get to the space shuttle. We're going to get to the Columbia and STS-1. But I want to talk to you a little bit about what got you to that point. In my research, I found out among other things, you always love flying but you were also a first generation computer geek. Did that play a part in your NASA career?

Bob Crippen: Well, it did. When I was attending the University of Texas to get a aerospace degree, my senior year, they started a computer program with the old punch cards and so forth. I was interested in that. And I've continued to explore that interest throughout my career.

Mat Kaplan: But along the way, you did pick up something like, and I imagine it's more than this now, 6500 hours in air and in space. Why did you fly before you took the controls of the shuttle?

Bob Crippen: My primary fleet airplane was the A-4 Skyhawk, which I was flying aboard the USS independence in the Mediterranean and throughout the Atlantic. And when I finished up that Squadron tour, I applied for Test Pilot School and was fortunate enough to be selected. And the Navy and the Air Force exchange people for the schools and I ended up being sent to the Air Force school at Edwards Air Force Base. It was a thrill to be there. Chuck Yeager was the commandant of the school when I was there. That was a long time ago. Just recently there was Chuck, it was quite an experience.

Mat Kaplan: Got to meet him once. That was a pretty amazing experience as well. You were a tried and true naval aviator or was like joining up with the Air Force there. I know that you actually joined.

Bob Crippen: Well, I spent a lot of time working with the Air Force. They do things a little bit different and flying sometimes but I learned to fit in. It wasn't that difficult. In fact, I enjoy there remitted. They had some great airplanes, loved flying the F-104 Starfighter out there and the F-106. It gave me a chance to see a little bit of both sides of the operation between the Navy and the Air Force.

Mat Kaplan: When I was a kid budding space geek, the books I got from the library, all talk about this amazing space plane that the Air Force was developing, the X-20, the DynaSoar that was going to be followed. I mean, it was a follow on to the actual X-15, which did all that amazing work. I mean it was a space plane. Right? And then came plans for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the MOL. Do you think that you might have ended up living up there in the MOL if that program hadn't been canceled?

Bob Crippen: Well, I was honored to be selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, MOL, it was a military space program as opposed to NASA civilian space program. And I thought there was a distinct role for the military in the space. Still do in fact, but they did cancel DynaSoar. And when they canceled that, they wanted to put in another program and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory was what came out of that. I was in the second group of people that was selected forward, [L Crews 00:12:42], who was our boss at the time, one of the crew members was actually on the DynaSoar program and he switched over to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. In fact, I was out there in California, we were home based there in El Segundo, California hoping to move up to Vandenberg. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Mat Kaplan: I read a lot about this, the stories about the cancellation of those programs. And I got to tell you, I mean as a kid, I and a lot of other people, we were sure excited about DynaSoar. It did seem like a natural follow on to the X-15. If these programs had gone ahead, do you ever think about where we might have gone, instead of turning all our attention to getting to the moon, not that there was anything wrong with that?

Bob Crippen: Well, we're still learning how to exploit space, if you will. And we're now moving on to more commercial applications there. But there still is room for doing classified stuff, we now have a space floor. So the military is actively involved in what's going on around the Earth.

Mat Kaplan: How did you end up making the jump over to NASA, and I guess you had the chance earlier in your career but you decided that you'd stick with the military?

Bob Crippen: Well, when I first applied to be an astronaut, both NASA and the military, we were taken applicants and they came a point in the selection process, I had to choose between the two. That was in 1965, NASA was in the middle of the Gemini Program. And they had quite a few astronauts on board. So I figured by best opportunity was to go with the military, which is what I did. Unfortunately, I was selected in 67 for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, and we were working hard on it looking forward to move into Vandenberg, as I said earlier. And we unfortunately got a call one morning that the program was canceled. I learned early on that no matter how far along the program is, it can go away in a blink of an eye and that's what happened in MOL. All of us crew members, there were 14 of us at that time, we're crying in our beer, if you will, trying to figure out what it is that we're going to do.

Bob Crippen: And one of them, [Bobko Karol 00:14:56], one day sit in the crew meeting of, "Why don't we ask NASA if they could use any of us." And we all poo-poo the idea saying, "Hey, they got too many astronauts already. And they were already starting to cancel the moon flights and they hadn't even gone to the moon yet." But one thing led to another and NASA did decide to take some of the crew members, thanks to a guy by the name George Miller, who was one of the NASA Headquarters guys. He had kind of directed the the astronaut office in Houston that they should take some of us and Duke Slayton, who was a big boss there at that time decided, "Well, I'll take everybody this 35 and younger." And that cut the group right in half, seven of us actually moved over to the NASA at that time. And the other seven unfortunately, didn't get but they were quite successful as well.

Mat Kaplan: I imagine you pretty happy that you made that age cut off, the deep set.

Bob Crippen: That's an understatement. Yes, I was very happy.

Mat Kaplan: Apollo ended earlier than it should have but you manage to keep busy. I read about your work with Skylab and Apollo–Soyuz, which didn't actually get you into space. But I mean, you did have to spend a whole bunch of time with some other astronauts in a tank, didn't you for some of the preparation for Skylab?

Bob Crippen: Yes, actually, to go back to Duke for a minute, when Duke carried the seven of us he said, "Look guys, I don't have any flights for you. They're talking about this thing that called a space shuttle that may fly around 1980 or something. But I got lots of work for you to do." So we moved over and started supporting the programs that were impending and the one that that time was Skylab, our first attempt to the space station. I joined that program, started following the hardware and in fact, following the computer that was on board as to how it was going to be programmed. And after I'd been there a couple of months, I guess, Pete Conrad who'd finished up Apollo 12 called me into the office one day and he said, "Crip, I need you to volunteer for this thing." And I said, "What is it?"

Bob Crippen: And they said, "Well, they want to do a ground simulation of the environment of Skylab, and they're going to lock you up in a vacuum chamber with five psi of pressure. And you're going to live in there for about 56 days." And being the new guy on the block, you don't turn down a volunteer. So I said, "Yes sir.". And he said, "We got two other guys who are going to volunteer with you but they don't know about it yet. You got to go talk to them." And that was [Bo Bobko 00:17:39], I mentioned earlier and [Bill Thornton 00:17:41]. And so we set out to work on this program that was called the Skylab Medical Experiment Altitude test or sleep for short. It was quite a project. And we did spend the 56 days locked up in that chamber, which was a little bit of an ordeal. But it actually produced some results regarding the medical hardware and things that we needed to do that fit into the actual Skylab program itself.

Mat Kaplan: And I imagine, some of the stuff they learned still benefiting people living on the ISS today. I mean, it's amazing to think that even today, there's still stuff that we're learning about what it takes to keep a human happy and healthy in space. And this was an early attempt to do that.

Bob Crippen: It was and you do have to keep occupied, I learned that you don't want too much idle time, just the right amount of idle time, but you need to be busy. And we set that up to work. And it turned out that did feed into the Skylab program. And unfortunately, we discovered we were overworking one crew way too hard and had to back down on that. But there is a balance of what you can do while you're on board. Especially if you're new to getting into being weightless. That takes a little getting used to and you're not as productive initially.

Mat Kaplan: That's a famous story I guess for another time about that Skylab crew that rebelled a little bit, but it's okay and I think it's coming up on our show. Then came Apollo-Soyuz, you went up there shaking hands with the Soviets but you were playing a pretty important role on the ground.

Bob Crippen: Yeah. Actually, when we finished up Skylab, I moved in to start helping with the design work on the space shuttle and worked on that for about a year or so. And then Tom Stafford call me in they said, "Crip, I need you to volunteer to be on my support group for this thing called Apollo-Soyuz, which is a joint mission we were going to do with the Russians." And that actually sounded like you would be interesting to do. So myself, [Ric Truly 00:19:49], Bo Bobko and Bob Overmeyer, I think we're the support crew on that and we actually ended up going over to Moscow and storage city and there we all watched sight of back and we were the first, American Stare would go there, Tom Stafford insisted that we were going to get to go see their launch site, which we did.

Mat Kaplan: Wow. It strikes me that you got asked to volunteer for some things over and over by a lot of people who are now pretty important parts of history.

Bob Crippen: Well, I was the new guy, so you got to volunteer a lot.

Mat Kaplan: So you were the Capcom, right, for Apollo-Soyuz?

Bob Crippen: I was kept calm for Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz. Let me point out something there, man.

Mat Kaplan: Sure.

Bob Crippen: That was very important role because the people in Mission Control play a significant role in all of our spaceflights. And learning to work with them on the ground, in the control room really helped me out later on when I was flying. I could picture what was going on in the control room and what they need to know and how to communicate with them a lot better because of that.

Mat Kaplan: Wasn't this a really important decision right from the start? I mean, from Mercury on to make a fellow astronaut, the person who was the liaison with the people who were up there?

Bob Crippen: I think it was, we owe that to the original Mercury Seven, I'm not sure where's probably Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, who were probably the forcing functions behind that. It helps to have somebody you're talking to, that kind of understands you and how you're operating and what your limitations are on what you can do.

Mat Kaplan: Let's go back to the shuttle. So you were already working on it, helping to make it into what it became. And I'm also thinking back to the 1970s, when I used to drive up from my college radio station in Orange County to Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave, of course. And I would stand on the side of the dry lake bed for the approach and landing tests. There was enterprise that test article, first writing on top of the 747, always being lifted up there but eventually being released. And I think it was the first time they actually released it to glide back on its own. There, we were all standing on the edge of the dry lake bed feeling awfully fortunate to be out there for this. And the shuttle glides past us almost silently. And of course, all our eyes are on that. All of a sudden, this earth shattering roar takes place right above our heads. And that was the T-38 chase plane and it put us all on the ground. And I'm just wondering if maybe you were flying that plane that knocked me on to the dirt.

Bob Crippen: Not on that particular mission. Actually, I was on the ground out there, we're just along with you, but besides you, I was over by the runway. One of the things that we also do in the astronaut office is we assigned a crew member, an astronaut, to be with the family of the people that are flying on missions like that. And so I was what we call the family escort. So I had all the wives out there and telling them what was going on. Unfortunately, I had also caught a bad cold earlier, I lost my voice. So, it was mostly with my hands, I was talking to the women. But we did use the T-38 to chase all of those missions. And we actually used to put the first initial orbital flights as well. And I did fly some of those chase missions of subsequent flights.

Mat Kaplan: It's one of my favorite stories about being out there. Then I was out there again of course, not too long after because Columbia was coming back from space. You were lucky enough on April 12 1981, to be sitting next to John Young out there on Pad 39A at the controls for Colombia. What was going through your head?

Bob Crippen: Well, we already scrubbed once on April the 10th. And I thought there was a good chance that we were going to scrub again because it's a very complex vehicle. And there were lots of things that have to work correctly, I've been working as an astronaut but hadn't flown for a very long time. So I was pretty excited but it was only when the count got inside of a minute that I really turned to John said I think we might do it. That's where my heart rate went up to about 130, it was a moment of pure excitement and it lived up to everything that I dreamed it would be.

Mat Kaplan: How was it to fly, what you made it up into orbit, thanks to that giant external tank and those mighty solid rocket boosters and and you were up there in low Earth orbit on your own. And having written a vehicle that had not gone through any uncrewed tests, not into space anyway because you couldn't do that, it was meant for to fly?

Bob Crippen: Yeah, actually, the program discussed starting about a year prior to flight. And we'd already been delayed as to whether they ought to modify the vehicle to try to get it where it would fly unmanned. And both John and I logged against that because we talked to have a better chance if we were on board because we're martyrs to guess, but-

Mat Kaplan: I think they call it the white scarf, actually.

Bob Crippen: Sure. It was an interesting test flight. Both John and I are trained as test pilots. And first are something that the love of test pilots wanted to do. So we were pleased to be on the first flight. And it lived up to our expectations, eight and a half minutes from sitting on the path to go in 17,500 miles an hour, it's quite a ride. But I thoroughly enjoyed my first time to be in what being weightless and getting a chance to observe this beautiful planet Earth that's our spaceship, and was lucky enough to get to do it a few more times after that.

Mat Kaplan: And we're going to talk about some of those. They kept you pretty busy, I'm sure, but you did get some time to look out the window and enjoy that view.

Bob Crippen: Well, I did. However, there were only two of us on board, there was quite a bit of work going on. So I didn't get to look out as much as I might have wanted to, I discovered the commander gets to look out more than the pilot does. On my subsequent flights when I was commander, I did spend more time looking out the window.

Mat Kaplan: It's good to be in charge sometimes. You totally already talked about how complex it is. And we've talked about that on this show. Most people have, what an amazingly complex machine it was. Can you give some idea of the complexity of this system because it was much more than just a flying machine.

Bob Crippen: Well, it was and the computers we talked about a little bit earlier, were very much involved with the whole operation of the space shuttle. And we didn't have that much memory and not nearly as much as you've got in your phone or probably in the computer you're using. The computer looks at all the systems, that's how the crew monitors most of the systems, we did have some hardwired its displays. But predominantly, we depended only computer to to see those. You've got first an environmental control system that's got to allow you to breathe and keep the temperature reasonable and keep the pressure right. The vehicle builds up a lot of heat because there were electronics on board. So we have to have a radiator, which was the inside of the payload bay doors that was required to be open for you to stay in orbit very much for very long.

Bob Crippen: We use what we call a flash evaporator to keep it cool going up and coming back down. So you've got all that system to deal with, then you've got to generate power, we had three fuel cells to do that. No batteries at all, strictly the three fuel cells, part of what's building up heat. You also need to worry about the structure of the vehicle, which is interesting thing in the thermal protection system, which was required to keep it cool because the big goal is basically get a scan of aluminum which melts at around 300 degrees and you're going to come in at 3000 degrees. So we've been adopting these thermal protection systems to keep the vehicle that reasonable temperature and also a material called reinforced carbon-carbon which is on the leading edge of the wings and the nose of the spacecraft.

Bob Crippen: You got very complicated main engines, nose complex saying, we've built in fact the derivative of those going to be used on the new spaceflight system that NASA is working on right now. So there's a lot of complexity in the vehicle, you got a hydraulic system that's run by auxiliary power units, that allows you to control the vehicle, the elevations, and the flaps and the main engines to some extent as well. So there's a lot going on. It's built weighs about 200,000 pounds when it's empty, just the orbiter itself. It'll take a payload of almost 50,000 pounds of the low Earth orbit. And it has a crew, the crew seven that's allowed us to fly a lot of people in space much more than we've ever had before.

Mat Kaplan: Still an amazing vehicle, this-

Bob Crippen: It'll long time before we have anything nearly as complex or capable.

Mat Kaplan: You made me remember because I've studied this and I like to tell computer people this story, the memory you had on those original shuttles and I remember that it was magnetic core memory, which the computer geeks out there know was the earliest form of random access memory, RAM memory, and not very much of it as you said.

Bob Crippen: Yeah, we started out with only have 64K. I did get that boosted up to 100K before we uploaded, there were 32-bit words on the thing. We also had the programs stored on magnetic tape. So we had to load the programs, they had one edit for the pre-flight when they were getting ready to launch for the countdown. Then you loaded the SM Program Manager about 20 minutes prior to the lift off. You get on orbit to get to load the orbiter program in for the flight control. And then you've got an entry program that you got to load in and all those things that need to work.

Mat Kaplan: So if the system crashed, you had to reload from magnetic tape while you were on orbit.

Bob Crippen: That's correct.

Mat Kaplan: Wow. That's Bob Crippen, pilot for the first flight into space by the space shuttle, more is just ahead.

Casey Dreier: Space Exploration doesn't just happen. In a democracy where you're competing against other priorities and resources, we need to maintain a constant engagement in the political process to ensure the types of missions we want to see in the future. I'm Casey Dreier, I'm the chief advocate here at the Planetary Society. I'm asking you to consider making a donation to our program of space policy and advocacy that works every single day to promote your values in space science and exploration to the people who make the decisions in our democracy. Your donations keep us independent, keep us engaged and keep us effective. Go to planetary.org/takeaction. That's planetary.org/takeaction. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: You're the pilot, how did it fly? I mean, how did it handle... First of all in space, when you had to maneuver aroundsome but then bringing it back down to the dry lake bed here in California.

Bob Crippen: Well, that flew very well actually. The flight control system is also digital. So when you're controlling it, your hand controller is putting inputs into the computer, which goes out and drives the aero systems to do what you want or the Jets. When you're on orbit, we had some large 800 pound reaction control jets. And we had some smaller ones, vernier jets, that we also use to control your attitude. And we had a large orbital maneuvering system that allowed us to change the orbit while you're on orbit and to do the de-orbit.

Bob Crippen: Coming back in, you're initially using the jets till you get down to around 400,000 feet and you start to get a little atmosphere. And you blend in using the flight control system with the jets. It's when you go subsonic which is usually right over your landing site at around 45,000 feet, then you're strictly on aerodynamic controls, the jets are not used after that. But-

Mat Kaplan: Really?

Bob Crippen: Because of the reaction control system going through a digital system, we were able to turn the vehicle that actually flew much more like a small fighter airplane that it did a big shaky because of you could set the gains and most of us in the crew were former fighter pilots. So we tend to want to be pretty responsive, which it was.

Mat Kaplan: That's also amazing when you think, we're talking compared to a Boeing 737, that you were able to tune that thing so that it can fly like the fighters who were used to?

Bob Crippen: Not quite as responsive as fighter but much more so that some 707 which are fluid, that doesn't happen.

Mat Kaplan: Did you have control over that balance between the reaction control system and the traditional control surfaces? Or was that also something determined by the computer as you came down on altitude?

Bob Crippen: That was all programmed in the computer, it modified the system as you came down.

Mat Kaplan: It's some amazing sophistication, considering it was state of the art for the time. But still, it still amazes me.

Bob Crippen: That is. It worked very well. I mean, considering that we couldn't really simulate that in the system prior to flight, the fact that it did behave so well was remarkable. Let me go back on the approach landing tests because they played into that. The last landing, Fred Hayes was doing on the concrete runway out that that works. He actually got in what's called a pilot induced oscillation with the nose. It was because we needed to change the gains to correct that, that allowed us to come in and fly the orbital flight so well, but it was something that we discovered with the test and that's why you do test.

Mat Kaplan: I'm just thinking of how much my pilot brother is going to love hearing this part of this conversation, man, he's just going to go nuts. That first return, when you set it down and it slowly came to a stop behind the parachute, there on the dry lake bed, and all those vehicles start coming out and I was standing off on the dry lake bed again, children jumping up and down with everybody else. And had to feel pretty good.

Bob Crippen: That's an understatement. It felt, the fact that it worked as well as it did and it all came together and I've never seen John Young as excited as he was. We needed to keep doing some of the bring the systems down. And we're working with mission control to do that, John left me to do that. He unstrapped, got off of the flight deck and went down to the mid deck, but they wouldn't open the hatches until they cleared that there weren't any noxious fumes outside. So John was bouncing back and forth between the main deck and the flight deck. And he was very excited to say the least. When they opened the hatch, he immediately exited. I still was busy working with the mission control trying to get the vehicle shut down properly.

Bob Crippen: And I came out shortly thereafter. But let me go back to one point you mentioned, you were out on the lake bed when John and I came over head Edwards around 45,000 feet. And when he put the vehicle in a big left turn to do our circling approach that we use out there, I looked out his window and I saw all these people out there on the lake bed, pointed out at John, I said, "I hope none of them are on the runway." But they kept me off the runway.

Mat Kaplan: They let us closer than I thought they would actually, I was surprised but yeah, the night before because I've been up all night. I was wandering around just outside the fence where those thousands and thousands, not a people. I mean, there were hundreds of thousands of people, thousands and thousands of RVs who have pulled up there and all those people sitting on top of their vehicles to watch you guys make that first landing. It was a glorious experience. I also have a photo of people milling around outside what was then the Dryden Research Center, now the Armstrong Center of course, walking around enterprise, that test article that you had worked with for so long and the approach and landing test. It was really amazing. It was such a touching experience to see the people who had helped to build, who had paid for this system being out there to enjoy its success.

Bob Crippen: Yeah, it was and I was amazed that as many people came out, I think there was a good portion of LA that was deserted at that point. All driven up to see that, and good deal of Palmdale and Lancaster.

Mat Kaplan: Palmdale and Lancaster were empty by that point. Yeah, you're right. I mean, and to say nothing of the tens of millions of people who were watching on live TV all around the world. Tell us about John Young, a guy who walked on the moon, not a legend.

Bob Crippen: John was great guy. Glad to have called him my friend. I'm just sorry, he's not here to celebrate this 40th anniversary coming up.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Bob Crippen: John is perhaps one of the funniest human beings I've ever met. He had these one liners that he delivered in a sort of a right mouth that I wish I'd written them all down in the book somewhere and I could have sold it and gotten this rich, but he was also a brilliant engineer. I learned early on when John was worried about something on the vehicle or that we were doing that I ought to be worried as well. So he and I and had three years to train for that initial flight because we kept getting delayed due to problems with the main engines and that thermal protection system. So I got to know John very well and he was a pleasure to fly with. When you're a rookie going up, you'd like to have a nice experienced guy to go with. And John was our most experienced guy. He was chief of the astronaut office. It flown four flights including walking on the moon on Apollo 16. So I had the best to go fly with.

Mat Kaplan: Truly a legend. You got to fly three more times, all three times as commander of challenger. What strikes me most maybe about these three later missions is that they were all about getting work done up there in space.

Bob Crippen: It was. The initial ones, we had to keep testing out things to make sure that they would do what we wanted them to do on my second flight, STS-7. I had a great crew. As you said, I was commander on that and we wanted to go see if we could work in proximity of satellites and capture satellites and deploy them again with our remote manipulator system, the arm that's on the shovel. We actually did deploy a couple of communication satellites and then got down to the basic work to find out whether we could turn the satellites loose and pick it up again.

Bob Crippen: I had John Fabian and Sally Ride doing that. And Rick Hauck who was my pilot on that, he and I flew around the vehicle that we deployed, flew out, flew back in and picked it up a couple of different times. So that was early on test to find out if that worked like we would want it to. By second flight, we had a satellite that was on orbit that did not function, that was called Solar Max, put up there to observe the sun during the maximum phase of the sun. We had not done a rendezvous yet prior to that flight. So we were the first rendezvous with the space shuttle. And then came in and to capture it, we had planned to use picking Nelson, that was going to fly over and grab it with a manned maneuvering unit that we had.

Bob Crippen: And unfortunately, the capture device on that was not designed correctly, it didn't do the job resulting in a tumble of the Silver Max. But the ground was able to stabilize it again to get it where we could come in and capture with it just rotating in a slower manner. Carey Hart was the guy that did the capture with me on that. Then the last flight was more of an operational flight, it was primarily with instruments designed to observe the earth. And we did do to try to figure out whether we could actually refuel satellites on orbit, we did an experiment that Dave Lisa and Kathy Sullivan did a spacewalk and proved that we could do that. Sally Ride was also with us that, it was a great mission. I didn't know that was going to be my last flight though.

Bob Crippen: When I came back down and after working for a while, I was assigned to do the first initial mission that we're going to fly out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. And that was going to be a polar orbit, which I really was regretting that I never got to do that. In fact, we were going to launch off the same path that we had planned to launch off of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. But after we lost challenger, all that went by the wayside and I hung up my flying boots and got into management, unfortunately.

Mat Kaplan: Well, fortunate for the rest of us maybe but yeah, I can understand your feelings about it. I'm going to come back to that elephant in the room of challenger, of course, because it was your bird on those three fights that you made. So many of the names that you've just mentioned, have also become legends. I mean, I'm very proud that Sally Ride became a friend of mine, I live in the San Diego area, and she actually made a regular contribution to this show for a while. I was pretty devastated by the loss. I just wonder if there's anything else that you want to say? Not just about her, because you must have all been thinking somewhere in the back of your minds, "Hey, we got the first American woman up here in space," but also all these other amazing colleagues that you worked with over those missions?

Bob Crippen: Yeah, Sally was special. She was a great crew member. I flew with her twice, in fact, her only two flights. So my crews, we lost her way too early, was pleased with the work that she did while she was out there in San Diego with trying to inspire more young women to get involved in some of the more technical projects, that sometimes women don't seem to go in that direction. And she did a lot to inspire women to prove that they can do anything they want to.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, Sally Ride Science still going strong as far as I know. And there's a ship that I pass by every now and then here. An oceanographic research vessel called the Sally Ride-

Bob Crippen: That's great.

Mat Kaplan: ... and it always makes me always makes me feel good to see it. Let's talk about Challenger and what happened. We don't need to dwell on this but that had to be pretty devastating. And I know that you were involved in the recovery from that and in making sure that it wouldn't happen again. What can you say about that?

Bob Crippen: Well, as you said, it was pretty devastating. I lost a lot of close friends on that mission and in a vehicle that I'd grown to love, the challenger. It was an accident, my opinions I'm never sure that happened. We launched on a cold day and solid rocket joints didn't handle it very well. And that caused the loss. There was some initial recommendation now to the solid rocket manufacturer, was not to launch because of the temperature but because of some communication issues, I guess, various reasons that was decided to override that to get them to change their mind. Unfortunately, they did go launch and the accident happened. And as you said, I know that I felt the crew very strongly with Warner's to get back to flying again. And I made some recommendations to my boss at that time, who was Rick Truly in Washington that we needed more operational people and running the program.

Bob Crippen: And he said, If I believe that I'd hang up the flying boots and come help run the program, which is what I did and Arnie Aldridge who is a director of the program and [Dick Course 00:45:34] was in Houston and I was in the Kennedy Space Center, worked very hard on overcoming a lot of stuff to get back flying again because there was a lot of things that needed to be corrected on the shuttle besides the solid rocket motors and we took advantage of a two-year plus period to do that, probably one of the tougher things I ever participated in.

Mat Kaplan: Back before I started doing this show, 18 years ago, there was a short live TV show and actually went and did an interview at Rockwell, with one of the leaders of the work to redesign the shuttle after the loss of Challenger and I still am blown away by how many upgrades were made, how many changes were made from the early design and I guess that's some of what you're talking about?

Bob Crippen: That's correct. I mean, when you fly a vehicle, you discover things that you'd like to improve on. And we had discovered quite a few, so we took advantage of that period to do that. One of the big things is the wheels and brakes were not up to what some of us wanted. So we improved those putting those wheel steering in, and improved a lot of the systems on board.

Mat Kaplan: And then of course, along came endeavor, which I never get tired of visiting when I make it up to LA nowadays. It is truly onspiring to stand underneath that vehicle and know that it was part of this family of vehicles that did such amazing work up there in low Earth orbit. I mean, do you ever get to see any of the shovels now on display around the country?

Bob Crippen: Oh, yes. This is the mall. It was kind of heartbreaking for me to see him go into museums instead of flying. But I'm glad that they're out there where people can see them. Usually, the first time anybody walks around to one of the shuttle orbiters, they're amazed at how big it is. They don't fully appreciate it till they see it. Another amazing thing is the first time I heard they were going to put that in the museum out there by USC. I said they're never going to be able to get it there. I didn't see how he ever worked with the people base to fly to LA and they did manage to move things that allowed him to put it there. But we have discovery up at the Smithsonian Goodbar Halsy in Washington and we have Atlantis in the Kennedy Space Center on display there.

Mat Kaplan: I'm sure you regret that they're not still flying. But I also regret that the Challenger and Columbia aren't also on display where people can come and remember the amazing work that they did. So you went into management, you became the director of the Space Shuttle Program working out of NASA headquarters and there were a lot of good years left in the program.

Bob Crippen: That's true. After a couple of years where I've been working at the Kennedy Space Center, Arnie Aldridge wanted to move over into another position there and Dick Truly who was running our manned spaceflight at that time asked me to come up and be the director of the program. A couple of years is about all I can tolerate at working in Washington noticed that one of my favorite workplaces, it was educational, let me say that.

Mat Kaplan: Not the first person I've heard that from and yeah, I think you're being polite. I guess that helped prepare you for, as far as I know, what was your next big job and that took you back to the Kennedy Space Center.

Bob Crippen: It did. I was always fun to the Kennedy Space Center. I first visited there in 1967, I think, and I always liken it to that's where the space program that where the rubber hits the road. The opportunity came for me to take over as director, replaced Forest McCartney, who's hard big shoes to climb into. But other than sitting in the cockpit, probably being director of the Kennedy Space Center was my next most favorite job.

Mat Kaplan: From there to private industry. Quite a jump from the military to government and then to private industry. I mean, what was that transition like? I think first it was to Lockheed Martin?

Bob Crippen: That's correct. I decided some at some point while I was at the Kennedy Space Center that if I ever wanted to be able to retire, government pay, a military pay is not all that great. So I probably needed to get out into the private industry. I retired from NASA without ever having look for a job and started to do my job search after I quit NASA, and ended up getting an offer to work in Orlando at one of the Lockheed Martin facilities there. And was primarily working on simulators for the military because of the management roles I had, I was restricted from working on anything with NASA for a while. But after a couple of years there, I got a call one day from a headhunter that there was a position out with this company called Falcon, which I knew very well and I said, there's no way my wife is ever going to go to Utah. It's too cold for... I talked it over with my wife, one thing led to another and I went out to be the president of the Falcon.

Mat Kaplan: That's a name that people ought to remember better than maybe it is, because of course, it was not long afterwards during your time that a fire call went through some mergers. But I mean, this was the company that was building those amazing solid rocket boosters, right?

Bob Crippen: It was, it was actually Morton and Thiokol until we had the Challenger accident. And after that, the Morton Salt company decided they didn't want any part of the rocket business. So they spun that off. When I joined Falcon, we had a corporate headquarters that had gone out and acquired a couple of other companies. So there were three companies in the corporation, Hook and Halmer were the other two, we changed our corporate name to Coordinate, I think. I had the Falcon portion of the business. Until one day I got a call from one of the corporate office guys and told me that they were selling the company to Alcoa. And I handled that transition. And then Alcoa decided they didn't particularly like their rocket business either. And so I put it up for sale form and sold it to a company called ADK at that time.

Mat Kaplan: Another one with a pretty important history. Weren't you during your time at Falcon, weren't you involved with work on the solid rocket boosters and better ways to help get the shuttle up there?

Bob Crippen: Yes, we've done improvements to the solid rockets ever since the accident. But we primarily were focused on the production to... Initially, I saw that early on we were building rockets before we'd ever flown on the first flight. And it was more like a blacksmith shop sometimes, but we cleaned it up where that was even preceding me. They were working on that. And we continued that, we were doing the big solid rockets on the shell roll and Minuteman missiles and the Trident missiles for the Navy.

Mat Kaplan: I'll take it back to the shuttle for a minute as we get closer to wrapping up here. You've been very generous with your time. When I hear people nowadays, and even if the time criticize the shuttle, the space transportation system, and there's room for criticism you have to admit. I always tell them, "Yeah, but look at what it accomplished. And just look at it. Look at what took all these people and payloads up into orbit. With all its flaws, it's still magnificent." Do you agree?

Bob Crippen: I'm obviously biased. I'm-

Mat Kaplan: I knew.

Bob Crippen: I'm very proud of the Space Shuttle Program. Yes, we had two tragic accidents that should have never happened. It was a complicated machine and it required a lot of tender loving care, TLC, but it was able to do fantastic things, flew 130 flights with those two accidents and carried hundreds of people into orbit, including satellites that did things like the Hubble Space Telescope that has revolutionized our knowledge of the universe. Early on, we did some military flights. They decided to quit flying those following challenger, but I personally think Some of them helped us win the cold war that were very important. And like I said earlier, it's going to be a long time before we have a machine that's anywhere near as capable as the space shuttle was.

Mat Kaplan: Do you want to add any thoughts about NASA's current efforts to get humans back up in the Space. I mean, we've seen that happen now though on the Crew Dragon of course, but Orion Space Launch System sounds like they may finally be making it up there, maybe even by the end of this year.

Bob Crippen: Of course, I was very chagrined when we didn't have a capability to put our people up in space and we're dependent totally on the Russians. I was very pleased when Space X finally was able to launch cruise from the United States again and hopefully Boeing is going to be able to do that with their Starliner maybe before this year is out. As you mentioned earlier, we keep thinking myself, I'm retired, so I'm not doing anything but the United States is working on the Orion capsules similar to what we flew to the moon with, but a little larger. A new large rocket called Space Launch System, totally it's going to end up being a little more capable than Saturn Five which is going to allow us to go back to the moon and hopefully eventually land people on the moon.

Bob Crippen: I know there are a lot of people think, well, we ought to be going on to Mars. Personally we need to learn to work and live on another planet that's a little bit closer to Earth than Mars is going to be, we'll eventually get there. I don't think you and I are going to see it happen. The lunar program is something we're working on. And now the China and Russia have just united to go work on the lunar program themselves. So we got a lot of competition again.

Mat Kaplan: So when you see that big Space Launch System rocket, then you know that those engines as you said, are derived from the space shuttle engines. And you see those solid rocket boosters strapped to the sides. Does it make you think back?

Bob Crippen: Well, we did take advantage of the technology we'd had before with the main engines and built a larger solid rocket based on what we used in the space shuttle. And I think it's smart thing to do, take advantage of technology burn, somewhat you're granted it's taken so long, spent as much money as it has to get the Artemis program going, which is what they call the program at this time with the Orion and the Space Launch System. Hopefully we'll get there. Maybe get it off this year for an unmanned launch.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, it's good to see it progressing. Bob, I got just one more for you. The town of Porter in Texas, it's about an hour and a half drive I think from your birthplace, Beaumont. Have you visited Robert L Crippen Elementary School?

Bob Crippen: I was there for the opening, pretty proud to have a school named after me back in my hometown. I have one sibling a sister, Betty Monroe. And I think she did some lobbying around there to have the school named after me. That was nice. And I've been back to visit the school a few times. It's been a few years but I get back to Porter every now and then because my sister still lives there.

Mat Kaplan: I bet that lobbying effort didn't have to be too strenuous to get them to adopt that name. I also hope, Bob, that you and I are both around to see a lot more great things happen up there. Certainly the return of humans to the moon but I'm not willing to rule out to get no put footprints on Mars yet. Would you go again if you had the chance, John Glenn got to go again?

Bob Crippen: If I could drive.

Mat Kaplan: That's great. Bob Crippen, thank you. This has been absolutely delightful and an honor to talk with you. Thank you for your many decades of service. They're going to have you remembered for a long, long time.

Bob Crippen: Thank you, Mat. You have a good day.

Mat Kaplan: Time for the what's up poetry festival. At least that's what it seems to be this week, as we welcome the chief scientist of the Planetary Society Bruce Betts, welcome Indeed.

Bruce Betts: I welcome you as well wherefore art thou, old Matthew.

Mat Kaplan: Matei. Oh, wow!

Bruce Betts: Oh, wow.

Mat Kaplan: We have so many poems to go through this week including two, two Haiku. In fact, to rhyme a bit from one of the winners in our planet fest auction, she actually bid on and won the opportunity to have her poetry presented in planetary radio and so we're going to hear not one, but two Haiku from [Susan Codwiki 00:59:14]. Congratulations, Susan and thanks for being part of the auction but that'll come up a little bit later. What have you got for us up front?

Bruce Betts: I have a lot of non-poetry but really cool science stuff. Science stuff that'll do, you're okay with that this week.

Mat Kaplan: Doesn't all have to be poetry.

Bruce Betts: All right in the pre dawn sky, we got Jupiter, super bright Saturn, yellowish over in the East in the pre-dawn. In the evening sky in the southwest in the evening sky, you can check out a triangle, the red triangle. Not to be confused with other red triangles, therefore reddish. Four, it's a triangle with four vertices. Let's try that again, there are three reddish starlike objects that are hanging out together and because there are three, it's a triangle, it becomes an equilateral triangle-ish in the next week or two and that's you got Mars, which is the dimmest of the three right now. And then I'll deberon the star in Taurus and then Beetle juice, the bright red star, the brightest of the three in Orion. So if you check out the Southwest, look for those three and on the 16th, if you're having trouble finding them, the moon, the crescent moon on the 16th will be hanging out in the middle-ish of this red triangle. We move on to this weekend space history, nothing happened this week.

Mat Kaplan: I doubt that very much.

Bruce Betts: Or in 1961 this week, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. And 20 years later, the first space shuttle flight as you may have heard earlier in the show, STS-1 was flown.

Mat Kaplan: A somewhat significant week in space history.

Bruce Betts: Yes, in deed it do. We move on, did you have something special you've hinted at?

Mat Kaplan: I should do. It doesn't really rhyme but it's a little bit poetic. We have this terrific intro to Random Space Fact. (singing)

Bruce Betts: Wow!

Mat Kaplan: I know.

Bruce Betts: Wow, that is amazing. That's magnificent. Who is responsible for this fabulous thing.

Mat Kaplan: That was from an obviously terrific barbershop quartet called Sound Wave which has as a member, Tom Moore, who was formerly of the Quartet called high fidelity, which we did some stuff with on past shows including a planetary Radio Live or two. And Tom got his guys to put that together for us. Thank you, Tom. Thank you Sound Wave. Pretty damn great.

Bruce Betts: Thank you. Thank you, Tom, and Sound Wave. That was magnificent. And I'll try to deliver on the call for a Random Space Fact. Bob Crippen, who you wonderfully interviewed is one of the few winners of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. And this has been awarded only 28 times and 17 of those were posthumously two USS rats who died in the spacecraft accidents and Bob Crippen was the last one of these awarded in 2006.

Mat Kaplan: Well deserved.

Bruce Betts: Indeed. We go to the trivia contest. And I asked you what part of the International Space Station is named after a chess piece? How do you do, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: You remember I call this a poetry festival?

Bruce Betts: I do indeed.

Mat Kaplan: This is unprecedented. This is unheard of.

Bruce Betts: We usually get a couple of poems a week, maybe three, including the one from our Poet Laureate, of course. For some reason, I think we got seven poems this time. We don't have time to do all of them, but I thought I would ply you with a selection of these. Can I read the first couple of these?

Mat Kaplan: No. Yes, of course you can. It's your show. You control everything, you do the editing. Yeah, go ahead.

Bruce Betts: Here is The Response from Douglas Emerson in Ontario, Canada. No kings or queens in space, no pawns of political hand. No medieval knights or castles. This is a borderless land, on tranquility, new piece on the board of Bishops Gambit, bold and brash moves diagonally, payloads to deploy. It's taking out the trash.

Mat Kaplan: That's what I call it when my bishops go and work on smothered teams. I say, "Hey, my bishops taking out the trash."

Bruce Betts: It's correct, isn't it?

Mat Kaplan: It is indeed, the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock has been birth to the tranquility module since 19, December 2020.

Bruce Betts: It is used apparently or it will be used to dispose of trash to push out the bigger pieces, which I guess then decay and burn up on the way down.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, it'll have a variety of uses including being used as an airlock including for trash, but also to do various science experiments that will be contained in the airlock as it's then turned to space and expose the space and then it can be brought back and have those experiments retrieved and all sorts of good stuff.

Bruce Betts: [Robert Kohane 01:04:42] in Massachusetts said, What apparently there's no fine for littering in space. Not yet, Robert. Stay tuned. Here's one from James Maxi in Arizona. After riding the dragons back on CRS-21 tranquility, brought this hunk of metal weighinG about a ton. The first commercial airlock with a pressurized volume immense will with the help of Canadarm two allow CubeSats to dispense name for one of two chess pieces which can move in a diagonal way. This pressure vessel will serve customers every single day unlike old modules, which have started to show cracks. The bishop airlock is brand new from our friends at Nanoracks.

Mat Kaplan: Although has a much better description than I did and it rhymed.

Bruce Betts: Here's our winner before I go on to two more poems and he's a first time winner. It's Andy Spafford in California. Congratulations, Andy. Who indeed said, Bishop, that commercial airlock from Nanoracks. He says I discovered Planetary Radio about six months ago. I've been enjoying it ever since. I was a Planetary Society member back in the late 80s. Early 90s I still have all those great magazines. We're still making those great magazines, Andy, hint. Anyway, we're going to send Andy a copy of Space Ferrer's, how humans will settle the moon, Mars and beyond by [Christopher Onejack 01:06:06]. So again, congratulations, Andy. I got two more for you. Now squeeze these in, if you don't mind.

Mat Kaplan: I would love it.

Bruce Betts: Jean Luhan, in Washington, one of our regulars. Birth to tranquility this module sets an airlock of Nanoracks design, inspiring the name that this question seeks. Though no miter on it will you find, it moves by means of a Canadian arm, though not limited to diagonal paths, assisting deployments of small satellites and sometimes used to just take out the trash, as Maxim's go in the game of chess, beginners should develop Knights. But since the ISS has been up there more than 20 years, this Bishop Gambit seems to be all right.

Mat Kaplan: Nice.

Bruce Betts: Weren't you saying that you've taken up chess again?

Mat Kaplan: Yes, I have. I am spectacularly mediocre.

Bruce Betts: And finally, from our Poet Laureate Dave Fairchild, the bishop has an airlock on the friendly ISS. It's made in Houston, Texas, so it's bigger too I guess, it weighs 900 kilograms and Nanoracks is known for having this, the largest one that we have ever flown. And that completes the poetry corner of what's up.

Mat Kaplan: Wow. Actually, no, it doesn't because we still have those two Haiku. You want to give us what's coming up for next week first?

Bruce Betts: For next time, what famous band was so moved by the viewing of the launch of STS-1, the first space shuttle launch that they wrote a song about it? Go to planetary.org/radiocontest.

Mat Kaplan: That is very cool. All right. You have this time until the 14th. That'd be Wednesday, April 14 at 8:00 AM Pacific Time to get us the answer. Now, we have for your listening pleasure, two Haiku from that auction winner, Planet Fest Auction winner, Susan Codwiki. Here is the first introduced by Susan herself.

Susan: Invitation, beyond we must seek our colorful lush home world, stars glisten. Hello.

Mat Kaplan: And here's one more from Susan.

Susan: Inherited, we question the skies. Our ancestors, our children, Stardust in our bones.

Mat Kaplan: That's it.

Bruce Betts: Those are very nice.

Mat Kaplan: Yes, they were. Thank you, Susan. And that does now complete the first annual what's up poetry festival?

Bruce Betts: Excellent. Congratulations.

Mat Kaplan: I didn't tell the prize for your new contest. It is a rather fascinating book, Mars in the Movies, a history by Thomas Kent Miller, published by McFarland and Company Publishers. I spent a couple of evenings just paging through this. It is dense. It is full of illustrations. It is every movie ever set on Mars, from Santa Claus versus the Martians to the Martian. And actually a lot of silent films and a whole bunch of other stuff in between there. One of my favs Robinson Crusoe on Mars, it will go to the person who correctly answers Bruce's question. Now we're down.

Bruce Betts: No, we're not Mat. The day we're recording this is special and important. I wish you Happy birthday, Matt Kaplan

Mat Kaplan: What, you didn't even get a quartet to sing happy birthday?

Bruce Betts: Open your front door?

Mat Kaplan: Oh, no.

Bruce Betts: All right, everybody go out there, look up the night sky and think about what birthday present you'd like to give to our glorious Matt Kaplan. Happy birthday, Mat. Happy birthday!

Mat Kaplan: So I do get some too. He's the chief scientist and vocalist for the Planetary Society who joins us every week here for what's up. Planetary radio is produced by the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by its courageous members. Find out how to become one of them at planetary.org/join. Mark Hilverda, our associate producer Josh Doyle composed our theme which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. And now a special little Easter egg for those of you who have stayed till the very end. Remember that I said STS-1 launched on the 20th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight. Here's what Bob Crippen told me, when I asked if he and John Young were aware of this as they sat in Columbia's cockpit on April 12 1981.

Bob Crippen: Neither John or I, I think thought about it. We were so wrapped up and tried to get the space shuttle flying, that wasn't where our focus was. In retrospect, after we landed and somebody brought it up. I think it was pretty neat 20 years later.

Mat Kaplan: Ad Astra all