Before the Space Shuttle lifts off from the launch pad, thousands of careful and skilled hands have worked for months behind the scenes to prepare the ship for its journey.
I am writing a book about the Space Shuttle Columbia from the perspective of the people who worked with her on a day-to-day basis.
As the Space Shuttle Program comes to an end, there will be many books available about the history, the technical achievements, the triumph and the tragedies. The story I will tell will be different because it is the story of the people who knew Columbia.
To the people who knew Columbia, she was more than just a spacecraft. Columbia's first Pilot, Robert Crippen, described her after she was lost on February 1st, 2003; "Columbia was a fine ship. She was named after Robert Gray's exploration ship, which sailed out of Boston Harbor in the 18th century. Columbia and the other orbiters were all named after great explorer ships, because that is their mission, to explore the unknown. Columbia was hardly a thing of beauty, except to those of us who loved and cared for her. She was often bad mouthed for being a little heavy in the rear end. But many of us can relate to that. Many said she was old and past her prime. Still, she had only lived barely a quarter of her design life; in years, she was only 22. Columbia had a great many missions ahead of her. She, along with the crew, had her life snuffed out in her prime."
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