NASA's space-shuttle program comes to a close this year after more than 130 shuttle missions over 30 years — flights that carried more than 350 people into space and traveled more than half a billion miles on the first reusable spaceflight vehicles.
NASA’s space-shuttle program comes to a close this year after more than 130 shuttle missions over 30 years — flights that carried more than 350 people into space and traveled more than half a billion miles on the first reusable spaceflight vehicles.
Two shuttles, Challenger and Columbia, were destroyed during missions, killing their crews and shaking the national psyche and the space program. In each case, shuttle flights resumed.
Some key dates in space-shuttle history:
April 12, 1981: John Young and Robert Crippin pilot the Space Shuttle Columbia on the maiden flight of NASA’s Space Transport System.
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June 1983: Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space, as a crew member aboard the shuttle Challenger.
August 1983: Guy Bluford becomes the first African-American astronaut to travel in space as a crew member on the Challenger.
February 1984: Astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart make the first untethered spacewalks on a Challenger flight.
Jan. 28, 1986: The Challenger explodes 73 seconds into flight, killing all seven aboard, including shuttle commander Dick Scobee, a graduate of Auburn High School, and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.
February 1990: On a mission for which many details are kept secret, Navy. Capt. John Creighton of Seattle serves as shuttle commander as Atlantis deploys a spy satellite.
April 1990: A Discovery mission launches the Hubble Space Telescope.
December 1993: A flight of the shuttle Endeavour successfully repairs the optics on the ailing Hubble Space Telescope.
June-July 1995: The shuttle Atlantis, whose crew includes Bonnie Dunbar, of Yakima County, docks with the Russian Mir space station.
October 1998: The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, 77, returns to space aboard the Discovery.
Feb. 1, 2003: Fifteen minutes before completing its 28th mission, Columbia breaks up with the loss of all seven crew members, including payload commander Michael Anderson of Spokane.
July 4, 2006: Discovery takes off for the international space station on the first Fourth of July liftoff.
May 2009: Seattle native Greg Johnson pilots the Atlantis in the space shuttle’s final mission to service the Hubble Telescope.
February 2011: Discovery launches on its final mission to dock with the international space station.
April 12, 2011: With the program’s final two missions planned over the next three months, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is to announce where the retired space vehicles will go. Twenty-one museums and visitor centers across the country applied.
Sources include Information Please Almanac, NASA and Seattle Times archives.