Tuesday, December 20, 2011

History Of NASA Space Shuttle Program

From its first launch 30 years ago to its final launch on July 8, 2011, NASA's Space Shuttle program has seen moments of dizzying inspiration and of crushing disappointment. The program had sent up 135 missions, ferrying more than 350 humans and thousands of tons of material and equipment into low Earth orbit. 

Fourteen astronauts have lost their lives along the way. The missions have always been risky, the engineering complex, the hazards extreme.

Individual Space Shuttle orbiters were named in honor of antique sailing ships of the navies of the world, and they are also numbered using the NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation system. Three of the names had also been borne by Apollo spacecraft in 1969-1972: Apollo 11 command module Columbia, Apollo 15 command module Endeavour, and Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger.

Lets look back at the past few decades of shuttle development and missions as we await the next steps toward human space flight. Some of the images are awesome and dramatic and suitable to be made as your desktop wallpaper.

Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, on April 12, 1981. Commander John Young and pilot Robert Crippen were onboard STS-1, the first orbital flight of the Space Shuttle program. (Reuters/NASA/KSC) 

Shuttle launch profiles. From left to right: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. (Wikipedia)

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