From the Archives: Crowd watches landing of space shuttle Columbia

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Columbia’s first landing on April 14, 1981, drew 225,000 fans to Edwards Air Force Base. The crowd size overwhelmed the base police and facilities.

For the next landing, Edwards was ready. In a Nov. 15, 1981, article, Los Angeles Times staff writer Al Martinez reported, “MPs on jeeps and three-wheelers guided the traffic to well-marked rows of parking places, a vast improvement over the jumbled chaos of last April.

“ ‘It took some people 10 hours to get out last time,” a master sergeant said, “I guarantee you it ain’t gonna be that way this time.’ ”

Columbia developed a fuel-cell problem soon after its Nov. 12, 1981, launch, leading NASA to cut its planned five-day flight in half. The original landing, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16, was moved to Saturday. But the crowds still came.


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