Recognizing the first crew of the space shuttle Columbia, the Legion presented its Distinguished Service Medal to Young and Crippen in 1981.

Though they could not attend the Legion's national convention because they were busy preparing Columbia's second crew for an October mission, fellow astronaut Karol J. Bobko told Legionnaires, "I believe these times of voyage into the space of our solar system will be viewed by future generations in the same way as we today view the voyages of the European explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries."

Young and Crippen flew the first of 27 successful Columbia flights in April 1981, and helped train others for subsequent missions. The shuttle continued to fly until 2003, when all seven crewmembers were killed during atmospheric re-entry.

Young served in the Navy during the Korean War and became an astronaut in 1962, flying his first mission on Gemini 3 in 1965. He became the first person to travel in space six times. He subsequently served NASA in several administrative positions and, even after retiring in 2004, continued to advocate U.S. space exploration.

A Navy aviation officer, Crippenjoined NASA as an astronaut in 1969. He participated in several missions as support crew. After piloting the first Columbia mission, he commanded four more in 1983 and 1984. He also worked in the private sector, including jobs at Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Thiokol Propulsion Group.

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