Mission insignia
Mission statistics
Mission nameSTS-3
Space shuttleColumbia
Launch pad39-A
Launch dateMarch 22, 1982, 16:00:00 UTC
LandingMarch 30, 1982, 16:04:46 UTC
Mission duration8d/00:04:46
Number of orbits130
Orbital altitude272 km
Orbital inclination38.0°
Distance traveled5,367,008 km
Crew photo
Lousma (left) and Fullerton
Related missions
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STS-3 was the third space shuttle mission, and was the third mission for the Space Shuttle Columbia. It was the first launch with an unpainted external tank, and the only landing so far at the White Sands Space Harbor near Las Cruces, New Mexico.


  • Commander: Jack Lousma (Second spaceflight)
  • Pilot: C. Gordon Fullerton (First spaceflight)

Backup crew

  • Commander: Thomas K. Mattingly
  • Pilot: Henry W. Hartsfield

Mission parameters

  • Mass:
    • Orbiter Liftoff: 235,514 lb (106,782 kg)
    • Orbiter Landing: 207,067 lb (93,924 kg)
    • OSS Payload: 22,710 lb (10,301 kg)
  • Perigee: 150 mi (241 km)
  • Apogee: 155 mi (249 km)
  • Inclination: 38.0
  • Period: 89.4 min

Mission highlights

Columbia was launched on its third flight at 11:00 a.m. EST, on March 22, 1982, the planned launch date. The launch was delayed 1 hour because of the failure of a heater on a nitrogen gas ground support line. Columbia had spent only 70 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility -- a record checkout time. The two-man crew included Jack R. Lousma, commander, and Charles G. Fullerton, pilot.

STS-3 speeds away from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center
The Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) is grappled by the RMS

Major objectives of the flight were to continue testing the Remote Manipulator System Canadarm, and to carry out extensive thermal testing of the Columbia by exposing its tail, nose and top to the Sun for varying periods of time.

In addition, in its payload bay, Columbia again carried the DFI package, and OSS-l -- named for the NASA Office of Space Science and Applications -- which consisted of a number of instruments mounted on a Spacelab pallet to obtain data on the near-Earth environment and the extent of contamination caused by the orbiter itself. A test canister for the Small Self-Contained Payload program -- also known as the Getaway Special (GAS) -- was mounted on a side of the payload bay.

For the first time a number of experiments were carried in the middeck lockers. These included a Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System experiment to study separation of biological components and a Monodisperse Latex Reactor experiment to produce uniform micrometre sized latex particles. The first Shuttle Student Involvement Project (SSIP) -- the study of insect motion -- also was carried in a middeck locker.

The Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) is grappled by the RMS

During the flight, both crew members experienced some space sickness, the toilet malfunctioned, one Auxiliary Power Unit overheated (but worked properly during descent), and three communications links were lost on March 26.

STS-3 was planned as a 7 day flight. However, it was extended an extra day because of high winds at the backup landing site, Northrop Strip, White Sands, New Mexico, since the planned landing site at Edwards Air Force Base had flooded due to excessive rain. A largescale equipment movement from Edwards AFB to White Sands was undertaken during the mission to ensure that a landing could be fully supported.

STS-3 prepares to land at Northrop Strip, White Sands, New Mexico with two T-38 chase planes observing.

Touchdown finally took place at 9:05 a.m. MST, March 30, 1982, at Northrop Strip (later renamed White Sands Space Harbor). STS-3 was the only shuttle mission to land at White Sands Missile Range. The landing demonstrated that the Shuttle could land in the desert, but sand damaged the orbiter. The landing was also one of the more dramatic of the program, when the nose was raised again right before nose-gear touchdown.

Columbia made 130 orbits and traveled 3.3 million miles (5,400,000 km), during its 8 day, 4 minute, 45 second flight. A total of 36 tiles were lost and 19 were damaged. It was returned to KSC on April 6, 1982.

This was the last mission for which NASA named a backup crew.

Flight dedication

Just as the Columbia, we think, represents man's finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too does the struggle of the Afghan people represent man's highest aspirations for freedom... I am dedicating, on behalf of the American people, the March 22nd launch of the Columbia to the people of Afghanistan.

President Ronald W. Reagan

Mission insignia

The three large orange triangular points of the mission patch tell the flight's numerical designation in the Space Transportation System's mission sequence.

Wake-up calls

A tradition for NASA human spaceflights since the days of Gemini, mission crews are played a special musical track at the start of each day in space.Each track is specially chosen, often by their families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.

Flight DaySongArtist/Composer
Day 2On the Road AgainWillie Nelson
Day 3Marine Corps Hymn
Day 4The Air Force Song
Day 5Sail AwayChristopher Cross
Day 6Six Days on the Road and Im Gonna Make It Home TonightDave Dudley
Day 7This is My Country