US space shuttles have been flying into space since 1981, carrying humans, travelling more than half a billion miles until the fleet retired in 2011.
NASA’s Space Shuttle program, in its 30 long years of spaceflights, carried out 135 missions, all launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Main tasks included - interplanetary probes, conducting space science experiments, and constructing and servicing the International Space Station.
Five shuttles were built - Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, carrying over 350 people into space.
Two shuttles got lost in mission mishaps. Both the tragedies saw loss of crew, in total 14 astronauts.
Challenger – was lost 73 seconds after liftoff, STS-51-L, January 28, 1986
Columbia – was lost approximately 16 minutes before its expected landing, STS-107, February 1, 2003
The first launch took place on April 12, 1981, with Columbia and STS-1, the first Shuttle orbital flight. The Space Shuttle program’s last mission was STS-135, undertaken by Atlantis, in July 2011. The Space Shuttle program formally concluded on August 31, 2011.
Shuttles’ new homes
Discovery, the oldest surviving shuttle, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center outside Washington.
Atlantis will be hauled down the road to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November.
Endeavour, which is the second of NASA’s three surviving shuttles, was built as a replacement for Challenger (the shuttle lost in a 1986 launch accident). However, NASA’s fourth shuttle, Columbia, which was lost in another fatal accident in 2003, was never replaced.
Shuttle Endeavour will be put on permanent show as a museum exhibit at California Science Center and is due to go on display on October 30.
NASA’s new missions
Following the retirement of the Space Shuttle program last year, NASA has set eyes on new tasks like:
- Human exploration of solar system
- landing humans on Mars
- NASA’s Space Launch System, an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
International Space Station:
- Scientific research, exploration technologies such as autonomous refueling of spacecraft, advanced life support systems and human/robotic interfaces
- Build aircraft that are safer, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and environmentally responsible
- Create traffic management systems that are safer, more efficient and more flexible.
-Develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen by 2025
- New knowledge to understand the Earth, the Moon, the solar system and the universe.
First Published: Saturday, September 22, 2012, 19:17