Conrad Roberts

Maiden Voyage

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In April 1981, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in the first voyage undertaken by a reusable spacecraft. The shuttle's passengers, astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, were the first American astronauts to go to space in nearly 6 years. split During the ascent, Robert's heart rate jumped to 130 beats per minute. "That was one fantastic ride! I highly recommend it," he said later. To take this photo, our photographer Fred R. Conrad set up a noise-activated camera. "Because of the importance of the launch and the fact that NASA insisted that the cameras be set up the day before, photographers were given a challenge like none other," Conrad recalled. He reached out to Marty Forscher, a well-known camera repairman and inventor, who helped ensure only the thunder of rocket engines would trigger the camera. To protect it from the elements, they placed it inside a mailbox attached to a heavy tripod and wrapped it in foil. Then, they "opened the mailbox door and prayed. The system worked like a charm."

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