7 Photographs Capture Iconic NASA Space Shuttle Moments a Decade After Their Final Flight
The space shuttle Atlantis landed for the final time on July 21, 2011, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, marking the end of the space shuttle program.
The space shuttle program used five different spacecraft during the course of its life, making it humanity’s first reusable spaceship. They took off like a rocket but glided back to earth like an aircraft.
The program’s final mission brought to a close three decades of world-record-breaking spaceflight accomplishments. It achieved multiple milestones, including the launch of technology into orbit that was cutting-edge at the time and continues to benefit the scientific community today.
From the program’s first missions until its last, some images highlighting major milestones are included below.
STS-1 was the first spacecraft to be launched.
Shuttle in space Columbia, pictured above, flew for the first time as the space shuttle program’s inaugural mission. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen were on board.
At the time, the spacecraft was the first of its sort. STS-1 stood for Space Transportation System-1, and following missions were given the names STS-2, STS-3, and so on.
STS-7 and STS-8: The first American woman and African-American in space, respectively.
The first of these photographs shows Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, aboard the Challenger space shuttle during STS-7 in 1983. She’s depicted above in a mission specialist seat, getting ready to de-orbit.
On board Challenger during STS-8, Guion “Guy” Bluford made history as the first African-American astronaut to fly in space. He can be seen utilizing one of the shuttle’s treadmills while in flight.
Hubble is launched into space on STS-31.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit around the Earth in April 1990 by the space shuttle Discovery.
The telescope is visible above, still attached to Discovery in space during STS-31, and is still in service today. The photo was taken with a Hasselblad camera that was held in the hand.
STS-88: First American module on the International Space Station
As part of STS-88, the space shuttle Endeavour delivered the first American module to the International Space Station (ISS) in 1998.
On the last spacewalk of the mission, astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman connect Unity to the Russian Zarya module, which was already in orbit, as seen in the photo above.
STS-116: A difficult mission to provide permanent electricity to the International Space Station.
STS-116 has been dubbed one of the most difficult missions in the space shuttle program by NASA.
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