Oh hail Columbia, gem of the nation!
The zero-perfect landing of the rocketship Columbia and its two astronauts after a
red-hot re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere Tuesday sent a cool chill of pride along
the nation's spine. It was a delightful shiver, proof that America's technical skills
have not all evaporated and that in the dangerous challenges of flight among the
stars the country is still unmatched.
Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen were superb, worthy to have their names
engraved in the records with the other great air-space pioneers of the century.
"What a way to come to California," Crippen said, as the gigantic glider burst
over the Golden State shoreline, having succeeded in its 2 1/4-day test flight
beyond the most optimistic hopes. Few new flying machines have worked so
Critics of the space program, including planetary scientists who saw their projects
scuttled as funds were drained off for the shuttle program, will not be silenced
by a perfect voyage. But all will have the satisfaction that the sacrifices made
by other federal programs have helped produce a glorious technical winner.
And for a nation that has watched others copy and improve on its technology, a
big glorious winner was badly needed. No matter for now that the shuttle must
prove itself as an economic common carrier in space, a job that will require
different skills than those that brought the Columbia safely home to a landing
in the Mojave Desert.
But for now, let's toast the Columbia, its crew and the backup technical
structure that turned yesterday's amazing fiction into this week's real-time
- from an editorial in The Oregonian, 4-15-81