In an effort to provide a more economic means of exploring space by using a reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle Columbia was built and launched.
During the first launching of the Columbia, James L. Mahan, La Verne Accelerated Program for Adults (LVCapa) student and manager of Assembly and Test Inspection at the Space Transportation Systems division of Rockwell International in Palmdale, Calif., worked closely with the final assembly of the shuttle. There, Mahan made sure everything was in working condition, including some of the more than 33,000 heat shielding tiles that became loose in past testing.
The problems were solved, and the first mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia was successful.
Some eight months later, the shuttle was scheduled for another journey through space.
In this second mission, Mahan and the Palmdale facility were prepared to support any emergency hardware for the spacecraft, if the need arose.
But just, as the shuttle was about to go up, officials at Cape Canaveral, Fla., called it off. This time it wasn’t the heat shielding tile, it was the fuel cells. Apparently, one of them broke down and shortened the proposed five-day mission to three. “The fuel cells are the source of the spacecraft’s electrical power,” said Mahan. “They determine the longevity of the flight. If you lose one, it cuts the length of the trip.”
With the second mission shortened to three days, the Columbia found itself safely back on Earth Saturday afternoon.
Currently working toward a degree in business administration through La Verne, Mahan would like his degree to help him “stay in tune with the educated work force of to day and to be prepared for potential advancement.”
He has proved that he has the potential by staying with Rockwell lnternational since 1964. Since then, he has seen the paraglider, space engine, the Apollo and Orbitor 101 program, and now the Space Shuttle Columbia.
“The occupation is enjoyable and challenging,” said Mahan.