Answer: On April 12, 1981, the space shuttle orbiter Columbia became the first shuttle to orbit the Earth. Space Shuttle Columbia returned to Earth on April 14, having orbited the Earth 37 times during its 54.5-hour mission. The shuttle program was officially referred to as the Space Transportation System (STS), so this flight was STS-1. The mission had a two-person crew: the commander, John Young, a veteran of Gemini and Apollo, and the pilot, Bob Crippen. The launch occurred on the 20th anniversary of the first-ever human spaceflight.