The Space Shuttle Program
For thousands of years, humans have wondered what was beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Today we no longer wonder. Humans have left the Earth and reached outer space with space shuttles. The Space Shuttle Program was run by NASA from 1972 – 2011.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Program was one of the most exciting advancements in the world. Along with other space programs around the world, it has lead to many new discoveries.
The Space Shuttle
The space shuttle includes a giant fuel tank, an orbiter, the main engine, and two rocket boosters. It takes off like a rocket, orbits Earth like a spacecraft, and lands like an airplane. It has a glider to help it slow down. It’s pretty versatile.
This video shows how a space shuttle takes off from a launch pad and lands like an airplane:
In total, there were 5 space shuttles used for 135 missions. Those missions include:
- Launching satellites
- Sending out space telescopes and probes
- Conducting science experiments
- Observing the Earth and stars
- Serving the International Space Station.
Challenger and Columbia Disasters
However, two of the space shuttles were destroyed in fatal accidents. In January 1986, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart after 73 seconds after take off. In February 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated when reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
The last space shuttle flight launched on July 21st in 2011. Now, the old shuttles are on display in various places that you can visit, like museums. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program is over. However, it continues its work in designing and developing future missions.
Notably, because the space shuttle served as a transport for the ISS, something needed to replace it. The Cygnus spacecraft is one such solution. It’s a cheap, disposable craft which brings things to astronauts on the satellite.
And to replace the space shuttle’s explorational capacity, NASA is working on something called the Space Launch System. It’s a more advanced shuttle which service spacecraft like the currently planned Orion craft.