Space History 1983-04-04 – First Flight of Shuttle CHALLENGER, STS-6

April 4, 1983 – First Flight of the Space Shuttle CHALLENGER, STS-6

STS-6 Challenger First Landing Edwards AFB 1983-04-09. Image Credit: NASA

STS-6 Challenger First Landing Edwards AFB 1983-04-09. Image Credit: NASA

CHALLENGER is perhaps best known for the way it was lost during its STS-51-L mission on January 28th, 1986. Having just passed MaxQ (point of maximum aerodynamic pressure), the orbiter was destroyed just 73 seconds after launch from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. It was the 25th Space Shuttle launch, and only the 10th mission for CHALLENGER. All seven aboard were killed.

But on April 4, 1983 that Shuttle flew into orbit for the first time. On that first mission, CHALLENGER deployed a NASA Tracking and Data Relay (TDRS) satellite, and was the first mission to have a spacewalk during a Shuttle mission.

In her short active duty CHALLENGER had many other firsts: CHALLENGER hosted the first American female in space (Sally Ride), and was the first Shuttle to carry a two-woman crew. CHALLENGER also became the first Shuttle to be launched at night, and the first to land at night. CHALLENGER hosted the first untethered spacewalk (Bruce McCandless flew the Manned Maneuvering Unit. McCandless was also CapCom when Armstrong took man’s first steps on the Moon). On February 11, 1984, CHALLENGER became the first Shuttle to land at the Kennedy Space Center runway.

But today we remember CHALLENGER’s first flight, and we hope to remember the lessons learned from her loss.

Leadership lesson taken from Abandon in Place – the Seven Forgotten Leadership Lessons of the Space Race

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