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Bold They Rise

The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986

David Hitt

Publication Year: 2014

After the Apollo program put twelve men on the moon and safely brought them home, anything seemed possible. In this spirit, the team at NASA set about developing the Space Shuttle, arguably the most complex piece of machinery ever created. The world’s first reusable spacecraft, it launched like a rocket, landed like a glider, and carried out complicated missions in between.
Bold They Rise tells the story of the Space Shuttle through the personal experiences of the astronauts, engineers, and scientists who made it happen—in space and on the ground, from the days of research and design through the heroic accomplishments of the program to the tragic last minutes of the Challenger disaster. In the participants’ own voices, we learn what so few are privy to: what it was like to create a new form of spacecraft, to risk one’s life testing that craft, to float freely in the vacuum of space as a one-man satellite, to witness a friend’s death. A “guided tour” of the Shuttle—in historical, scientific, and personal terms—this book provides a fascinating, richly informed, and deeply personal view of a feat without parallel in the human story.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

After John Young and I made the first flight of the Space Shuttle aboard Columbia all those years ago, people would sometimes ask me what the best part of the flight was. I would always use John’s classic answer: “The part between takeoff and landing.” Now that it’s all said and done, I think that describes what the best part...

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pp. xvii-xx

When I (David) first became involved in the Outward Odyssey series, working on the Skylab volume, my coauthors and I were shown a list of proposed titles for the first eight books in the series. As authors working on our first book, coming up with a title seemed like one of the more exciting...

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pp. xxi-xxiv

As mentioned in the preface but bears repeating, this volume owes a great deal of gratitude to the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, without which it would not exist. In addition, we are grateful to the University of Nebraska Press, and in particular to senior editor Rob Taylor, for their dedication to chronicling...

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1. The Feeling of Flying

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pp. 1-19

On the one hand is the idea. On the other, the reality. Sometimes the latter fails to live up to the former. Th e reality of experience doesn’t always measure up to the way we picture it. So often in the case of space exploration, however, it is the idea that utterly fails to do justice...

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2. In the Beginning

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pp. 20-53

Arguably, it could only have happened when it did. Astronaut John Young, who would go on to become the commander of the first Space Shuttle flight, was standing on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972 when he heard the news that Congress...

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pp. 54-74

By 1976 NASA’s astronaut corps had seen a large number of departures. Many of the early astronauts who had joined the agency as pioneers of spaceflight or as part of the race for the moon felt like they had accomplished what they had come to do. The last Saturn to fly launched in 1975, the next opportunity...

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4. Getting Ready to Fly

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pp. 75-93

One downside of creating something from scratch is that it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. As shuttle hardware development was winding down, astronauts began facing the next challenge— how do you teach people to fly a vehicle that no one has ever flown? Step one was figuring out...

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5. First Flight

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pp. 94-114

It was arguably the most complex piece of machinery ever made. And it had to work right the first time out. No practice round, just one first flight with two lives in the balance and the weight of the entire American space program on its shoulders. The Redstone, Atlas, and Titan boosters used in the Mercury and Gemini...

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6. The Demonstration Flights

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pp. 115-141

With the return of Columbia and its crew at the end of STS- 1, the first flight was a success, but the shuttle demonstration flight- test program was still just getting started. Even before STS- 1 had launched, preparations for STS- 2 were already under way. The mission would build on the success of the...

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7. Open for Business

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pp. 142-168

The demonstration missions were complete. The shuttle was considered operational. America’s new Space Transportation System was open for business, and one of its primary purposes would be the deployment of satellites...

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8. The Next Steps

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pp. 169-195

With each mission, the Space Transportation System continued to expand its operational functionality. The first four flights had demonstrated the system’s basic capabilities, and the next four had revealed its capabilities as a launch vehicle. After a brief change of pace on STS- 9, during which the...

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9. Science on the Shuttle

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pp. 196-221

As the nation’s Space Transportation System, the primary goal of the Space Shuttle was just that— to transport people and cargo back and forth between the surface of Earth and orbit around the planet. However, it was quickly obvious that the shuttle had even greater potential...

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10. Secret Missions

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pp. 222-229

From its payload-carrying capacity to the wings that provided its substantial cross- range, the Space Shuttle was heavily shaped by the role the U.S. Department of Defense played in its origins. After Congress essentially pitted NASA’s Skylab program and the air force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory...

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11. People and Payloads

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pp. 230-257

In 1983 a new classification of astronauts had emerged, joining pilots and mission specialists: payload specialists. Until this point, being an astronaut was a full- time job, a career choice that people committed to for years. They were given broad training, which prepared them to carry out any variety of...

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12. The Golden Age

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pp. 258-285

Like the 51A mission, which recovered two satellites that had previously failed to deploy, 51I included the repair of a malfunctioning satellite from a previous mission, 51D. The satellite, SYNCOM IV- 3, had failed to activate properly after deployment. Mike Lounge recalled that he and fellow 51I mission specialist Ox...

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13. To Touch the Face of God

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pp. 286-316

Astronaut Dick Covey was the ascent CapCom for the 51L mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger. “There were two CapComs, the weather guy and the prime guy, and so it had been planned for some time that I’d be in the prime seat for [51L] and be the guy talking to them. . . . As the ascent CapCom...


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pp. 317-320


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pp. 321-326

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780803255487
E-ISBN-10: 0803255489
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803226487

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Manned space flight -- History.
  • Space shuttles -- United States -- History.
  • Space Shuttle Program (U.S.).
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