The dream was given form and fire on April 12, 1981 with the launch of STS-1, the world’s first reusable spaceplane — the Shuttle Columbia. At the controls were a crew of only two, Astronauts John W. Young, commander for the mission, and Robert Crippen (both Naval Aviators) for this first “test flight” which would last 54 hours and recover at Edwards AFB in a powerless glide. Thirty years later we are on the eve of one of two remaining flights for the shuttle fleet. Waiting in the wings, still under development is an evolutionary outgrowth of the Apollo program – a conical spacecraft launched on a partially expendable booster to carry astronauts to the ISS and return via a water landing. An underwhelming development — back to the future, as it were. The intervening years have seen extraordinary triumph and unyielding pain as the human experience was painted across the cosmos. American ingenuity and enterprise given form and function. Born of a merger of the idealism of space exploration and hard realities of the Cold War, the Shuttle was supposed to take the extraordinary efforts of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and turn it into a regular occurrence.

And it almost did – twice.

Each time though, we were reminded again of the terrible toll exacted when boundaries are pushed and knowledge expanded; while a system’s fundamental flaws were revealed, forcing an endgame determination. Still, along the way a semi-permanent habitat was built in low Earth orbit, satellites launched to look deep into space and give us new perspectives on Earth and scientific and industrial experiments performed.

But in 1981, that all lay in the future and now – now the Dream is given fire and form:

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors