Unveiling El Paso’s Cosmic Love Story with NASA’s Space Shuttles
It's been over a decade since the last space shuttle flight in 2011. While the research done on getting humans into space will continue, the space shuttle has been retired. But during the time of space shuttle missions, we've seen at least 4 different space shuttles land in El Paso, Texas.
The first, and most famous, space shuttle to land in El Paso (and White Sands) was Columbia. It was the only space shuttle to land at White Sands Missile Range. Its STS-3 mission lasted for 7 days from March 22nd, 1982 until it landed on March 30. Thanks to people filming the event, we have plenty of video of that landing (NASA even did an entire documentary on their journey to White Sands for the launch).
Columbia would reappear again by landing in Fort Biggs from 1990 all the way to 1994. It also showed up to El Paso as early as 1979.
El Paso has only seen Discovery twice; landing twice at Biggs in 1991 & 1992. However that wouldn't be the first time that El Paso would see Discovery; Discovery was also the space shuttle where an El Pasoan, Richard Jones, was the leader of the space mission in 2010, Discovery's final mission. Richard would continue to work for NASA & Space X after the mission.
The space shuttle most notably for having the final space shuttle mission has landed in Fort Bliss a few times. Fort Biggs's Army Airfield has seen Atlantis land in 1990 (the space shuttle carrier had to divert due to storms). Thanks to the El Paso County Historical Society on Facebook, there's a photo of Atlantis when it landed in 1992.
We would see Atlantis again in June of 2009. Here's a nice flyover video of Atlantis flying over White Sands. You also see more photos of its landing on this NASA website.
There was also a special moment where students of UTEP got to see their fellow alumnus, Danny Olivas, be part of Atlantis' mission in 2007. Including the launch & landing.
The final space shuttle on this list is Endeavour. Its earliest landings were at Ft Biggs in 1991 & 1992. It would land again in El Paso in 1994. But we didn't start seeing footage of Endeavour until it landed in December 10th 2008.
There's also this video from Qubil which was posted in December 10, 2008. Based on the upload date & when Endeavour landed at Ft Biggs in 2008, this is most likely video of Endeavour flying over El Paso.
That wasn't the last time though; the final time was in 2012. The last time a space shuttle would ever be carried by an aircraft carrier & we were blessed to see it in El Paso one last time. It would land on September 19th, 2012.
And set off for its final destination in Los Angeles the next day on the 20th. Marking the final time a space shuttle would appear in El Paso.
There's also these nice photos taken from Mike Groves Photography as it passed over Las Cruces, NM.
We will still see many advances in space technology but it's sad that the space shuttle will no longer be involved with those advances. Still... it's nice to reflect on the times that we've gotten to experience these wonders of technology.