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In 1976, NASA selected Northrup Strip as the site for shuttle pilot training. A second runway was added crossing the original north-south landing strip, and in 1979 both lakebed runways were lengthened to 35,000 ft (10,668 m), which includes 15,000 ft (4,572 m) usable runway with 10,000 ft (3048 m) extensions on either end, to allow White Sands Space Harbor to serve as shuttle backup landing facility. While the Space Harbor was activated as a backup landing site for STS-116 due to poor weather conditions at both Edwards Air Force Base (high cross-winds) and Kennedy Space Center (clouds and rain), White Sands was only used for one landing of the Space Shuttle, that of the Columbia on 30 March 1982 for STS-3.
Boeing's StarlinerCalypso returned from a 49-hour Orbital Test Flight at 1257 UTC December 22, 2019 at the intersection of Runways 17/35. This marked only the second time an orbital vehicle has returned to Earth at White Sands.