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Shuttle Columbia

Shuttle Columbia

March 8, 1979: The space shuttle Columbia creeps over back roads from Rockwell International’s Palmdale plant to Edwards Air Force Base.

In a late afternoon edition, Los Angeles Times staff writers Nieson Himmel and Tom Paegel reported:

LANCASTER — The Columbia, the space shuttle orbiter vehicle designed to drop from orbit to earth at speeds as high as 17,500 mph, made its first trip early today — mounted atop a huge trailer and crawling along at a steady 3.5 mph.

Drawn by a mammoth truck tractor and guided by an army of workers and security personnel, the 93-wheel pipe-like trailer called a “strong back” snaked along a 38-mile route that included Lancaster streets crowded with spectators and a trackless desert to Edwards Air Force Base near here.

The trip from the Rockwell International plant at Palmdale, where the 150,000-pound Columbia was built, to Edwards, where the huge craft will be mounted atop a Boeing 747 transport and flown to Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, went smoothly…

Delays at Edwards kept Columbia from arriving at Cape Canaveral until March 25, 1979. Columbia’s first flight was on April 12, 1981. On its 28th mission, on Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated during re-entry, killing its seven-member crew.

This photo, by retired Los Angeles Times staff photographer Rick Meyer, was published on Page One in the next morning’s edition. A similar image by Meyer was published with the story quoted above.

1 Comment

  1. April 28, 2011, 11:19 pm

    This is so… amazingly historical.

    By: Ike Tacata

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