Marshall Space Center Legacy: 40 Years Since Spacelab Launch on Columbia

Marshall Space Center Legacy: Today marks a historic anniversary for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Forty years ago, on this date, the European Spacelab module embarked on its first journey aboard the Space Shuttle.

Marshall played a pivotal role in managing the twenty-foot-long science compartment, laying the groundwork for International Space Station (ISS) work. NASA astronaut Bob Hines, a University of Alabama graduate, shared his favorite memory from his 170-day ISS mission.

“When I think of my time on the station, it is thinking about my crewmates and the time that I get to spend with my crewmates, especially when we’re all just hanging out in the cupola looking at the Earth as it passes by underneath us, often in just stunned silence at the amazing beauty that we’re watching.”

Spacelab, launched on November 28, 1983, aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, had an international crew, including German astronaut Ulf Merbold. The European Space Agency and NASA collaborated on the science module, with 126 astronauts working inside on 22 missions until its conclusion in 2008.

Mae Jemison of Decatur, Alabama, the first African American woman in space, conducted research aboard Spacelab. The Marshall Space Flight Center, after managing Spacelab, continued overseeing science on the ISS, where Bob Hines contributed. The European Space Agency notes that Spacelab’s features continue to influence current space hardware, including the design of compartments on the ISS and spacecraft transporting supplies from Earth.

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Our Reader’s Queries

Which important benefits has the Marshall Space Flight Center brought to Alabama?

The center has been instrumental at the agency, from the first space launch vehicles and scientific satellites to the pioneering Apollo lunar missions and the current Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

What does NASA do in Huntsville Alabama?

For over 60 years, NASA and the nation have depended on the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to provide crucial propulsion systems, flagship launch vehicles, top-notch space systems, advanced engineering technologies, and innovative science and research projects.

How many people work for NASA in Huntsville Alabama?

Established on July 1, 1960, in Huntsville, Alabama, Marshall stands as one of NASA’s major field centers, boasting a staff of almost 7,000 employees and an annual budget of around $3.6 billion.

Can I visit Marshall Space Flight Center?

Public tours of Marshall are currently unavailable, but visitors can explore the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Marshall’s Visitor Information Center. Here, they can delve into Marshall’s historical significance and current projects.


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