Local man recalls maiden landing | TheUnion.com

Local man recalls maiden landing

Submitted photo/by Lee Biram The space shuttle Columbia sits on a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California desert just after landing on its initial flight on April 14, 1981.
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Lee Biram awakens early, so he meant to watch space shuttle Columbia streak overhead last Saturday morning.

“But I got too busy,” and he didn’t know about the disaster until he turned on his radio in Grass Valley. “It hit me pretty hard.”

Biram has a special interest in space flight and the Columbia in particular, having watched and photographed its initial landing on the parched lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in 1981. One of his photos, taken with a long range, 800 mm lens, accompanies this story.

“I had a friend who was working there … an old Navy friend of mine” who managed to get Biram on base with his camera for the landing phase of the country’s first shuttle mission. It’s a day he’ll never forget.

“It’s breathtaking,” he said of the landing. “It comes down very steep and so fast you hear two sonic booms, one from the leading and one from the trailing edge of the wings.”

After watching, hearing and reading about the disaster this week, Biram had this reflection.

“People say, ‘What good is the space program?’ It’s exploration; man has always explored. If he didn’t, we’d still be living in caves.”

– Dave Moller

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