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The Space Shuttle Program

Updated on March 20, 2019
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with three non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

SPACE SHUTTLE ON THE LAUNCH PAD
SPACE SHUTTLE ON THE LAUNCH PAD

The Space Shuttle Program

One of the most important facts about the history of the Space Shuttle is that they were the most complex machines ever built. The Space Shuttle Program designed the first reusable spacecraft.

The mission of the Shuttle Program was to conduct scientific experiments, to launch and repair satellites, and to provide shuttle service for the Space Station. The Shuttle transported cargo to altitudes of 115-250 miles above the Earth.

In Space Shuttle History, the spacecraft changed little in 30 years, other than major technological advancements in computers and avionics (instrumentation). The Program ended after 2010, having flown over 130 missions.

SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY ROLLS TOWARD LAUNCH PAD
SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY ROLLS TOWARD LAUNCH PAD
SPACE SHUTTLE PREPARING FOR LAUNCH
SPACE SHUTTLE PREPARING FOR LAUNCH

Shuttle Spacecraft

The Space Shuttle Program featured spacecraft that were mostly made out of aluminum and consist of three major sections: the orbiter spacecraft, with a maximum occupancy of eight astronauts; two Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters, which are the largest ever flown; an external tank with fuel (liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) for the three main engines.

The launch of a Space Shuttle was an awesome sight to behold. It literally lights up the heavens and spectators can feel the raw power. The Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters only burn for two minutes before they separate and fall approximately 160 miles from Cape Kennedy off the coast of Florida. They are retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean and reused. The main engines continue to burn for eight additional minutes, up to orbital altitude. The external tank then separates and falls into a remote part of the Indian Ocean. Where it remains.

SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY LIFTOFF
SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY LIFTOFF
SPACE SHUTTLE PHOTOGRAPHED FROM INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
SPACE SHUTTLE PHOTOGRAPHED FROM INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
JOHN YOUNG
JOHN YOUNG

The History of the Shuttle

A typical mission for a Space Shuttle lasts one week. It re-enters the atmosphere of Earth 75 miles high, at a velocity of 18,000 miles per hour. The orbiter is designed to glide in, similar to an airplane, to a safe landing. It hits the runway at about 220 miles per hour. The orbiter creates quite a sonic boom right over my house.

The first Space Shuttle made was the Enterprise, though it was only used as a test prototype and never flew a mission. The Columbia was next and in 1981 it became the first to fly into space, with Orlando native John Young as Commander. (We have a major parkway and planetarium named in his honor here in Orlando.) The third machine was the Challenger; the fourth the Discovery; the fifth the Atlantis; the sixth and final Space Shuttle is the Endeavor—produced to replace the ill-fated Challenger.

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION PHOTOGRAPHED FROM SPACE SHUTTLE
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION PHOTOGRAPHED FROM SPACE SHUTTLE
SAFE LANDING FOR SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY
SAFE LANDING FOR SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY

Space Shuttle Disasters

It is widely known that there have been two Space Shuttle disasters—each accident resulting in the loss of seven lives. The Challenger Space Shuttle exploded only 73 seconds into flight in 1986. An O-Ring failed because the unusually cold weather made it too stiff to function properly.

In the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle Tragedy, the spacecraft disintegrated over Texas only 16 minutes before it would have landed. Heat shield tiles, designed to protect the leading edge of the wing, had been damaged during the launch and could not withstand the estimated 2880 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures caused by the friction created by traveling at that speed in our atmosphere. Everything built by man is subject to failure.

The next manned space vehicle for America has been christened the Orion. It is scheduled to fly in 2014 and unlike the Space Shuttle Program, which features Earth orbiters, the Orion is being designed and constructed as a deep space vehicle—for missions to the Moon and Mars.

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    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      stessily— You are quite welcome, my dear. As you said so well, "The earth and everything in space are so photogenic . . ." Indeed they are.

      I love photography. I hadn't really stopped to consider "the grandeur, beauty, and mystery of the spheres." What an interesting observation!

      The blastoff of these powerful rockets is truly a spectacle to behold.

      Thank you for your continued support of my work here on HubPages. I very much appreciate you.

      James

    • profile image

      stessily 

      7 years ago

      James, The earth and everything in space are so photogenic that I lose myself in their depictions. Nothing seems to surpass a photograph in capturing and presenting the grandeur, beauty, and mystery of the spheres. Vincent Van Gogh's starry night pulls viewers irresistibly into the magic of night skies, but the scale of grandeur is difficult to maintain in paintings.

      This sentence which you wrote really caught my attention: "Everything built by man is subject to failure." So true! Part of the process, but it's sad when loss of life occurs.

      In your comment above you mention that, living in Florida for 18 years, you've seen many shuttles blast off. That has to be an incomparable experience!

      Thank you for another spacious journey.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Dolores Monet— Hello! Thank you for the compliments. I am glad you appreciated the pictures. I did not hear that Orion had been scrubbed. I will have to check into that.

      As I lived in Florida for 18 years, I was privileged to see many shuttles blast off. It is a truly awesome sight.

      James

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi, James - oh I would loved to have seen one of those space shuttles blast off - what an incredible sight, and what a testament to man's progress. So you said that Orion will be sent up in 2014 - I thought the whole operation was kaput. Will it be privately funded? I have so many question, I really need to read up. Great hub and gorgeous pix.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Fullerman5000— It is great to hear from you again, my friend. I haven't been very active on HubPages lately as I am working on publishing my first book. But I plan to return with a big batch of Hubs in the fall. Thank you for the kind compliments!

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      7 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      Love the pics and love astronomy. Great work again my friend. It has been a while, but i am glad to finally be reading you work again. I promise not to disappear to long again. Keep it up.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      Alexander Mark— Thank you my friend. :D

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      It's a definite deal brother.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      Alexander Mark— Yes, February 26 is the date. I am not in Florida or I would have lunch with you when you come this way. I am living in the northern woods of Michigan at present. If you get up into the midwest, let me know. I would like to meet you. :)

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I made plans to go for November, but time and money conspired against me. Good thing I had not bought tickets yet!

      Don't they have a launch planned for February? Maybe I'll be there and if there's time I'll swing by.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      stars439— Thank you very much, my friend. You know, this is one of my favorite Hubs but it didn't get many veiwers, relatively. Maybe the shuttle is ho-hum these days. But not to me! I appreciate your wonderful laudations! You have made me feel really good this morning with your kind words.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      9 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Fantastic hub. The photos are astounding. Your work and research reaps so much knowledge. What a beautiful quest to seek the knowledge of the stars. God Bless you in your educational work. We are a lot more educated because of your expertise in excellence as you journey our world's many fascinating topics and subjects on our behalf.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Kebennett1— Thank you. Orion has not been publicized much. Your Brother-In-Law certainly has a birds-eye view. I have seen many blast off, but it never gets old. I think we take the Shuttle for granted because there have been so many launches. But it is an awesome machine and a great achievement for America.

    • Kebennett1 profile image

      Kebennett1 

      9 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

      Awesome photos James. A lot of good info. I did not know anything about Orion! My Brother-In-Law was stationed at Edwards Air Force base and is now retired military and still works on base there in the Mohave Desert where the Endeavor just landed. He always gets an up front viewing when they land there. It seems like something always happens to prevent us from being there when one lands or takes off! Thanks for the information!

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      quicksand— You are welcome. Thank you for the visit. I am glad you let me know that you enjoyed it.

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 

      9 years ago

      Thanks James! Another bit of valuable info from you. :)

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      sumon6— It is good indeed. Thanks for saying so. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      success79— Well, I thank you so much for your nice compliments. I appreciate you taking the time to come by and take a look.

    • success79 profile image

      success79 

      9 years ago

      This is like a piece of art work. Brilliant photos. Interestig hub

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      cosette— There is a lot to love there. Thanks for your kind remarks. I do appreciate it.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      advisor4qb— I'm sure you have seen a lot of launches. My company—now defunct—provided weather surveillance in a Learjet for NASA for all rocket launches (except the shuttle) for years.

      Thanks for the visit and your remarks.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      BrianS— Thank you for coming. I believe there were some engineers who warned about the O-Rings in cold weather. These warnings were ignored, tragically. I'll never forget the sick feeling I had that day.

      I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      cosette 

      9 years ago

      LOVE the ISS, the Space Shuttle and the Hubble, etc. etc.

      beautiful hub!

    • advisor4qb profile image

      advisor4qb 

      9 years ago from On New Footing

      Cool hub. I have spent most of my life on the Space Coast, so I have seen a lot about this. I like the pictures!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I come from a technological background and found this hub really interesting, the failed O ring on the Challenger was a real lesson that unfortunately cost people their lives. Hard to believe that particular design flaw got past all the scrutiny but does prove as you said any design and manufacture produced by man can potentially fail and often the extent of the testing done is ruled by economics.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Waren E— I'm only relieved because I worry just a bit about the machines aging, for safety reasons. I actually get a kick out of the sonic booms. That is why private jets will never go faster than they have since they were invented in the 1960s: can't have sonic booms all over the place now can we.

      Thank you for the compliment. :D

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      DeBorrah K. Ogans— I agree with you. People are blessed with incredible creativity by our Creator. And it can be used for great purposes. I think this is one.

      Your comments are always so sweet and interesting. I love it when you visit. Thank you and you are welcome.

    • Waren E profile image

      Waren E 

      9 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

      That must be sooo cool,hearing that shuttle pass over your home ,too bad it all ends next year 2010,or may be you're very relieved ..LOL.LOL!:D

      Great hub Brother James!

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Tina Irene— Thank you for that link. Now when I get my sound fixed . . .

      I appreciate your support and encouragement.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      vanderhaven— I used to have a telescope and loved using it. I appreciate you taking the time to come and see my Hub. Thank you for your remarks, too.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Hello Duchess! It's always a pleasure when you come to call. You are welcome and I thank you very much.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Vladimir,

      Thank you for dropping by and you are always most welcome.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      R Burow— I surely agree with you. A shuttle launch is as unique an experience as any I can think of. I'm not sure where you live, but I can see the shuttle from 50 miles away. That's how awesome it is! Thank you for your kind comments.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Phillip Hurst— I'd love to be a TV writer—or any kind of writer, for that matter. :)

      I did not know that about Musgrave. Very interesting piece of information. I didn't know about that training either. Of course, you are the expert in this room with your company:

      http://www.airandspace.tv/

      Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      9 years ago

      James A Watkins,

      What a wonderful informative hub!

      Really makes on think and wonder. What intriguing ingenuous collective minds it takes to build such an amazing aircraft.

      I am fascinated by the complexity of it all! Traveling to the Moon what a rare privilege and Mars and of course Heaven!

      I could not resist! lol

      Again beautiful job!

      Blessings

    • profile image

      Tina Irene 

      9 years ago

      For your viewing and listening pleasure:

      A blast from the past in salute to the President and to all the men and women who helped put the USA into Space, especially to those who gave their lives in the effort....

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAQYxqBxJjQ

      That melody goes back to 1962 (long before space shuttles) and it brings back lots of motivating "what's out there" memories.

      And PS, James:

      The Catholic Eucharist has been in Space too.

    • vanderhaven profile image

      vanderhaven 

      9 years ago

      I would love to see a space shuttle launch. Recently I took our telescope out on the deck and looked at the moon. I was thinking I had probably did something wrong when setting it up because when we looked in it the very first time without any adjustments, etc. there was a huge bright white thing there- really big and clear and bright. It looked like what you would think the moon would look like up close but I was so skeptical about a cheap little telescope working that well. But- sure enough- it WAS the moon - craters and all!! The kids loved it and we plan on learning more about space together. I'll show them these pictures and tell them about the space shuttles. Thanks James!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      I see your love affair with space continues.

      Great pictures and a very informative hub. Thanks for putting these all together.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 

      9 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Great hub and photos. Thanks James.

    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 

      9 years ago from Florida, United States

      There is nothing comparable to viewing the launch and takeoff of the Space Shuttle. It was my honor to witness both from the Cape a few years back. Nearly as stunning is to view the takeoff from my own front yard. I will never get beyond the thrill of watching it arc from our atmosphere. James you brought the same thrill to this hub with the great pictures and information.

    • profile image

      Phillip Hurst 

      9 years ago

      Well done, James...care to be a TV writer? A few other interesting facts: former astronaut (and Air & Space TV board member) Story Musgrave is the only astronaut to have flown on all six shuttle orbiters. Also, because as you mention the shuttle is a glider upon de-orbit and landing, pilots train in a specially modified business jet that actually uses reverse thrust to simulate the steep glide profile!

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      "quill"— What a pleasure to hear from my friend in Yukon. The Space Program is incredible, as you say. We are learning much about the Universe God made for us to live in and observe—so we might know Him better.

      I'll bet your family friend is having the time of his life. Thank you for leaving your interesting insights.

    • profile image

      "Quill" 

      9 years ago

      Hi James...we take special intrest in the Space program...its amazing to watch and see the progress that man has made in space. Family friends have a reletive on the International Station now his last name is Thirst and they get regular emails from him...He is having a time of his life...Praise God

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      satomko— Thanks! I think the Orion will be very successful—and safer. The Shuttle is somewhat dangerous due to its design. Its purpose made for quite the engineering problem, and despite the two tragedies, it is extremely well made with the knowledge we had at the time.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      dutchman1951— I love Nashville. I have spent a fair amount of time there as I have relatives residing in your wonderful community. Thank you very much, Jon, for your visit and remarks.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      bayareagreatthing— Thank you so much for your complimentary comments. The shuttles have become not such a big deal to some, but here in Florida, where we can see them from miles away—and hear them—I am still awed by this incredible feat of engineering and construction.

      That would be cool. :-)

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      divinemercy1— Thank you. I owe credit for the photos to NASA, of course. I didn't know you worked in aerospace for the DOD. That is very interesting. I so appreciate your kind words. And you are my first visitor!

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 

      9 years ago from Macon, GA

      Good hub. When I lived in Melborn, Florida we used to watch the shuttle launches from our backyards. And James, where do you think the future of space-flying craft will go now that the shuttles are supposed to be phased out? Do you think these future-crafts be as successful?

    • dutchman1951 profile image

      dutchman1951 

      9 years ago from Tennessee, USA

      these photos are amazing, brilliant work. Like the article also- very

      Jon in Nashville

    • bayareagreatthing profile image

      bayareagreatthing 

      9 years ago from Bay Area California

      wow- what a great hub James. I think it is amazing how we can go into space...even today when it seems a little more "common". It still fascinates me. I always thought it would be cool if they took a picture and saw God looking into the camera :)

    • profile image

      divinemercylover1 

      9 years ago

      Brilliant photos James...having been in the Aerospace industry for 8 years with DOD, I had the distinct privilege of seeing this baby being "piggy backed" as they called it right over my apartment and office several times. It landed over in Texas all the time. Wonderful sight to see. Really a great article. Keep cranking this good stuff out James. Peace.

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