In our new series of Spacecraft Spotlight blogs, we present a variety of spacecraft and highlight their unique features and significant contributions to the history of space exploration. This month we light up the space shuttle, the world’s first reusable spacecraft.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Program at a Glance
- First shuttle launch: ColombiaApril 12, 1981
- Last shuttle launch: AtlantisJuly 21, 2011
- Total miles: 542,398,878 miles
- Common orbits: 21,152 orbits
- Total completed missions: 135 missions
The space shuttle is one of NASA’s most iconic spacecraft. It launched like a rocket, but landed like a plane. The shuttle was, in a word, revolutionary.
Its reusability was the first for man’s spacecraft, but the shuttle has done more than just go down in history. It has captured the hearts and minds of people around the world. No one has ever seen anything like the NASA space shuttle. Seemed to have jumped right out of the science fiction story!
NASA has built five orbital shuttles for human spaceflight – Challenger, Strive, Discovery, Atlantisand Colombia. The sixth prototype of the orbiter, Enterprisewas used in glider tests before the first flight of the shuttle.
From helping build the International Space Station (ISS) to launching the Hubble Space Telescope, the shuttle has done much in its 30-year career. A lot of scientific research has been conducted on board, and the invaluable knowledge gained from their results has improved life in space and on Earth.
The shuttle stood out in many ways from traditional spaceships. Its large cargo compartment allowed it to move a large payload, and because it was reusable, it offered a more economical option for people flying into space. It can also accommodate more crew members. While Apollo capsules could carry three astronauts, the shuttle could carry up to eight!
And the shuttle broke through the borders, uniting different crews from around the world, from different backgrounds. It was on the shuttle that the first American and African-American woman flew into space, as well as the first teacher. The shuttle has fostered international cooperation and made space more accessible.
Although its time has come and gone, it is hard to forget NASA’s space shuttle, which has left a huge impact on the history of space exploration and pushed the boundaries of human space travel. Retired shuttles are housed in their final locations in museums across America, where people from all over the world travel to see them.
The shuttle is still working with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will use the remaining inventory of RS-25 flight engines (once used to power the shuttle). manage the first four SLS missions!!
Learn more about the space shuttle here.
https://spacecenter.org/spacecraft-spotlight-space-shuttle/ Spotlight: Space Shuttle