This week officially launches our series of 5. Last week, we outlined our plan.
5 SPACE SHUTTLES
Columbia was the Space Shuttle program’s first functional orbiter. It launched on April 12, 1981, and flew for 22 years and 27 missions. This first shuttle was thousands of pounds heavier than the others. It flew a lot of science-oriented missions, and its last completed mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope. On February 1, 2003, Columbia broke apart on re-entry. You can read one of our posts that commemorates that accident, along with the Apollo 1 and Challenger accidents, HERE.
First launched in 1984, Discovery is the first fully functional space shuttle we saw in person and up close. This orbiter can now be seen at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. In this photo, Anna helps with mating process in preparation for Discovery to fly from Florida to DC after its final orbital mission.
First launched in 1985, Atlantis concluded the Space Shuttle program with its final flight in 2011. We were there to see this shuttle on the launchpad and see the program’s final launch. This shuttle can now be viewed in person at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where we saw it installed in 2012.
We think of Endeavour as our shuttle, for it was the first orbiter we saw launch in person, and we followed its journey to our backyard at the California Science Center in 2012. Endeavour was the only replacement shuttle and the last shuttle to be built; it was commissioned after the Challenger accident and made from spare parts. It flew 25 missions between 1992 and 2011.
Enterprise was never designed to go to space, but we give it a lot of credit as a test vehicle. And who doesn’t like a space vehicle that gets (re)named by Star Trek fans? Anna saw this (non)orbiter when Udvar-Hazy first opened, and it’s now on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Complex in New York.