Aerospace History: The Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle program in the United States began to be conceived as early as
1968. The aim was to send manned shuttles into space for research and explorative
purposes, but the Space Shuttle program differed from previous space explorations
in a major way. Instead of creating vehicles that were destroyed upon re-entry,
NASA sought to create vehicles that were reusable. Unlike earlier spacecraft, the
shuttles could land much like airplanes. As their technology improved, the first
shuttle, the Columbia, was launched in 1981. This shuttle was sent on twenty-seven
voyages before it was fatally destroyed on a return trip, resulting in the death
of the entire crew.
Similarly, the second shuttle, the Challenger, completed nine flights before
a fatal explosion. While this was certainly daunting, not to mention traumatic,
for the staff at NASA, they were not to be discouraged. Three years later, with
better safety procedures and updated technology in place, the Discovery
was unveiled. It went on to fly thirty-nine missions in its lifetime and was finally
retired successfully. The Endeavour and Atlantis rounded up the
fleet, and also enjoyed a number of successful voyages before retirement.
View a timeline of all of the space shuttle flights, with additional crew and mission
details of each one.
Space Shuttle Program Beginnings
The Space Shuttle program began in the early 70s with a goal of creating a space
transportation system that was reusable instead of being destroyed on each return
Space Shuttle Discovery
The Discovery was the orbiter that few the most missions out of any other ships.
Its total time in space amounted to a year.
This slideshow presentation covers the entire disaster surrounding the Challenger
in 1986, with explanations of what went wrong.
Space Shuttle Columbia (PDF)
This report details the Space Shuttle Columbia’s mission and subsequent failed re-entry.
Sally Ride Biography
The first American woman to travel in space, Sally Ride, was an astronaut on the
Challenger voyage in 1983.
Final Discovery Flight
The Space Shuttle Discovery’s final successful mission was celebrated with one last,
highly publicized flight aboard a jumbo jet, before it was permanently housed at
the Smithsonian Museum.
The Future of Space Exploration
NASA officials speak out on some of their goals for the next wave of space exploration,
which will focus on deep-space.
After the Enterprise last successful landing, it will be brought to JFK airport
for a special celebration.
Milestones of the Space Shuttle Endeavour
The Endeavour achieved a number of firsts in space shuttle history, including completing
the first journey to reach the Hubble Space Telescope, and holding the very first
space-borne female African-American astronaut.
The First Teacher in Space
Christa McAuliffe is a special name in space shuttle history because unlike the
other highly trained scientists and engineers, she was a civilian high school teacher
chosen among hundreds to join a space mission. Sadly, the mission failed when the
Challenge exploded a little over a minute after launching.
A Biography of John
John Glenn is best known as the first person from America to fully orbit the Earth.
Apart from his time in the Mercury program, he also flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery.
The Most Amount of Time in Space
John Watts Young is famed for completing the most amount of time in space. Starting
in 1965 aboard the Gemini mission, he also completed two Space Shuttle voyages as
View some quick facts and images of the five Space Shuttles that were created for
NASA’s Space Shuttle program.
A Space Shuttle Retrospective
As the Space Shuttle program drew to a close, it was celebrated with nostalgia and
pride. This compilation of articles takes a look at the highlights of the program
and also considers what the future holds.
Air & Space Magazine
This magazine published by the Smithsonian covers everything on space exploration,
spaceflight, and aeronautics.
The Hubble Space Telescope
On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery was launched with a very special
mission: to transport and position the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.
In the United States, an astronaut called Mae Jemison was the first female African-American
who went into space, travelling aboard the Endeavour.
Guion Stewart Bluford was the very first African-American (regardless of gender)
who travelled into space, eventually completing four Space Shuttle voyages.
A Look at
Future Space Shuttles
The next wave of Space Shuttle travel (slated to begin in 2015) will be in small
pods manufactured by the Boeing company, as opposed to the traditionally large shuttles.
Spaceflight in Future
This report examines the possibilities of future spaceflight and what missions astronauts
may embark on.
Watch a filmed lecture by an MIT professor on the beginnings of Space Shuttle technology
and the program.
The First Space Shuttle
Learn about the first Space Shuttle, the Enterprise, and its history, crew, and
Reflections on the Space Shuttle Program
Read through different criticisms and praise for the Space Shuttle program in retrospect.
The Last Space Shuttle Mission
Watch a video that examines some of the highlights of the Space Shuttle program,
along with its last flight.
A Timeline of Notable
Space Shuttle Moments
View a photographic timeline of important highlights of the Space Shuttle’s history.
Evolution of the Space
This article traces the origins of the Space Shuttle program and details its evolution
to the present day.
Ending the Space Shuttle
The end of the Space Shuttle program marked a period of tremendous technological
growth, achievement, and exploration.
the Challenger Explosion
See how the media, the public, and NASA reacted and responded to the Challenger
Discover the pros and cons of using robots instead of astronauts on future space