Saturday, August 30, 2014

Retro Saturday: STS-3: One Step Closer

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: wdtvlive42 YouTube channel.

This week's Retro Saturday film is a 1982 28-minute documentary on the third Space Shuttle flight, titled STS-3: One Step Closer.

“STS” stands for Space Transportation System, the formal name for the Space Shuttle. STS-3 was the third flight of the orbiter Columbia, back in the early days when Shuttle was still considered to be experimental. It launched from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A on March 22, 1982.

The launch was the first without the external tank being painted white. Using the natural foam color saved money and weight.

The landing on March 30, 1982 was the first and last at White Sands, New Mexico. At the time, Edwards AFB was the primary landing site but heavy rains had turned the dry lake bed into a lake. KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility existed, but due to the orbiter's experimental status the astronauts were not allowed to land just yet at KSC; the Edwards dry lake bed had much more room for error.

So that left White Sands, another dry lake bed in New Mexico.

When Columbia landed, plumes of gypsum from the lake bed penetrated the orbiter's heat shield tiles and cabin. Shuttle support teams never managed to clean it all out.

You'll also notice an unusual flare as Columbia lands. Commander Jack Lousma and Pilot Gordon Fullerton were testing the auto-landing program, then switching over to manual. The maneuver caused a flare that Lousma quickly corrected.

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