In the song “Countdown” by the progressive rock band Rush, the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981 is reported both musically and poetically. The song relates the awesome and incredible experience of observing the first manned space shuttle, since the Apollo missions, begin its launch in a blaze of fire and sound. As the shuttle musically ascends towards space, one is left with the feeling of enormity and grandiosity that might have been felt by all observers.
Though the first launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia truly must have been an amazing and memorable event, the band neglects to mention the catastrophic end to the program. On January 16, 2003 (the shuttle’s 28th flight) Columbia was destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere due to a dislodged piece of foam that damaged the shuttle’s wing; all of the astronauts died in the crash. It is important to note this later unfortunate event when discussing the original launch, because of its impact on the entire NASA program itself.