NASA's space shuttle program may be coming to an end later this year, but the agency's fleet of orbiters is preparing to celebrate an important milestone next week – the 30th anniversary of the very first space shuttle flight. On April 12, 1981, the shuttle Columbia blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.,on the program's inaugural STS-1 mission. Thirty years later, the workhorse shuttles have played an instrumental role in constructing the International Space Station, launching critical satellites and observatories into orbit including the prolific Hubble Space Telescope and carrying numerous supplies and science experiments into space.
Over the course of his career, Wayne Hale, NASA's former space shuttle program manager, bore witness to many of these crowning achievements. Hale joined NASA in 1978 as a propulsion officer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He then worked as a flight director in Mission Control, presiding over 40 shuttle flights before becoming manager of the program in 2005. Hale played a critical role in the agency's recovery from the catastrophic loss in 2003 of the shuttle Columbia and its seven-astronaut crew. He now serves as Director of Human Spaceflight Programs at Special Aerospace Services, located in Boulder, Colo.