On April 12, 1981 a new era in space travel began with the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia. The Space Shuttle was a revolutionary design as it could carry a multiple crew and a huge payload. And best of all, it was reusable. The only part of the Space Shuttle that couldn’t be used again was its huge external fuel tank which burned in the atmosphere during reentry. The shuttle would be launched as a traditional rocket and reenter and land like a plane. Like a glider to be more specific as the Space Shuttle landed without engines, so there was little room for mistakes during landing.
Two pitch Black days in the history of the Space Shuttle: First was the loss of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger which exploded during launch on the 28th of January 1986. The second was the loss of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia which disintegrated during reentry on the first of February in 2003.
There were five Space Shuttles in active duty (The Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and the Endeavor) which have been deployed on a total of 135 missions. The final mission took place in 2011, which also meant that from that time on the mighty USA was without means of bringing its own people in to space. The US must now rely on Russian hardware to get their people to the International Space Station. A situation unworthy to a country which once was the frontrunner in the space race!
1. The Space Shuttle getting a lift from the Shuttle carrier aircraft to Kennedy Space Center.
2. The Space Shuttle Atlantis ready for launch.
3. The flight deck of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
4. The Space Shuttle ready for launch, view from above.
5. The launch of a Space Shuttle, always a spectacular view.
6. Lift off!
7. Night time launch of a Space Shuttle.
8. This F15E Strike Eagle controls the sky during the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
9. Launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984, seen from a plane.
10. Skydiving with a launching Space Shuttle in the background.
11. Launch of a Space Shuttle seen from the International Space Station.
12. The external fuel tank is jettisoned.
13. Space Shuttle approaching the International Space Station.
14. Space Shuttle docked to the International Space Station.
15. Space Shuttle crew behind the windows.
16. The flight deck of the Space Shuttle while in orbit.
17. Bruce McCandless is 100 metres from the cargo bay of the Challenger. This was the furthest out ever.
18. The Space Shuttle Endeavor in orbit.
19. The space shuttle approaching the International Space Station.
20. A landing Space Shuttle.
21. The space shuttle Endeavor and Discovery cross paths at Kennedy Space Center.
22. A ride home for the next launch.
23. The Challenger Explodes shortly after launch on January 28, 1986.
24. The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Back row left to right: Pilot Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher and Payload Specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis, Astronaut Judith A. Resnik.
Front row left to the right: Mission Specialist Michael J.Smith, Mission Specialist Francis R.(Dick) Scobee, Mission Commander Ronald E. McNair.
May they rest in peace.
25. The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
Back row left to right: Mission Specialist David M. Brown, Mission Specialist Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Payload Commander Micheal P. Anderson, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon.
Front row left to the right: Commander Rick D.Husband, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, Pilot William C. McCool.
May they rest in peace.