The Space Shuttle: Saluting an American Space Icon
|Corporate Members | Board of Directors | Contacts | Archive||October 2010 | Vol. 9 | No. 10|
The View from Here: Saluting an Enduring Space-Age Icon
Space Foundation Celebrates Space Shuttle Legacy
After almost a year of debate and indecision, the House has passed the Senate's NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which is expected to be signed by the president. While certainly not perfect, the legislation should help stabilize the space agency and industry for the near term.
With all the hub-bub, we don't want something truly important to get lost in the fray: America's Space Shuttle program is about to end its 30 years of service to the nation and to humanity. At the Space Foundation, we are honoring that incredible legacy.
That is why on April 12, at the 27th National Space Symposium, we will honor the program at a special Industry Salutes the Space Shuttle luncheon, co-sponsored by United Space Alliance (USA).
As it happens, April 12 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the very first Space Shuttle launch, the orbiter Columbia on mission STS-1. It will be the perfect opportunity for all of us to show our appreciation to the NASA, industry, academic, international and other partners who brought the remarkable accomplishments of the Shuttle era to life. Later that afternoon we'll relive some of the greatest moments in Shuttle history with our Space Shuttle Commanders' Forum, with five former Shuttle commanders representing the five orbiters that have flown in space.
I hope you'll mark your calendars now, and be sure to join us as we celebrate and present a specially commissioned commemorative award to NASA.
The readers of this column won't need much reminding about why the Space Shuttle program has been so special. Despite the fact that the Shuttle was designed more than 30 years ago, it remains the only orbital vehicle in the world that can fly to a runway landing on Earth and be used over and over again. With its distinctive external tank, solid rocket boosters, and airplane-like design, it is arguably the only vehicle of the space age that can stand alongside the mighty Saturn V as an enduring icon of space exploration.
The Space Shuttle orbiters have flown a lot:
Of those 130 space shuttle missions:
Eight missions were dedicated to the science of the Great Observatories in space:
Cementing its role as a platform for the exploration of the cosmos, the Space Shuttle ferried three of the largest and most capable interplanetary explorer spacecraft to orbit, serving as the springboard launch pad in space for the Magellan Venus spacecraft (STS-30, Atlantis), the Galileo Jupiter spacecraft (STS-34, Atlantis), and the Ulysses solar-polar explorer (STS-41, Discovery). All three were spring-deployed from the Shuttles' payload bay atop the Inertial Upper Stage, a program that I supported, and that took me to Kennedy Space Center many times to experience the powerful majesty of a shuttle launch.
Following in the footsteps of Apollo-Soyuz, the Space Shuttle program also demonstrated the ability of nations to work together peacefully in space. Six separate flights were operated under the umbrella of the Shuttle-Mir program, paving the way for even greater international collaboration with the construction of the International Space Station, the most complex engineering feat in the history of humankind.
Yes, we lost two Shuttles and 14 astronauts along the way. And yet we persevered. The memories of Challenger and Columbia, and their crews, will stay with us forever. That, too, is part of the Shuttle legacy.
The View from Here is that nothing should take away from the three decades of remarkable accomplishments of America's Space Shuttle program. I hope you'll plan to join us on April 12 as Industry Salutes the Space Shuttle at the 27th National Space Symposium.
For more fascinating facts about the Space Shuttle program, click here.
And, if you'd like some amazing trivia to impress your friends with, the NASA/Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs Office has provided the following factoids: