Shuttle Atlantis

July 7, 2011 by staff 

Shuttle AtlantisShuttle Atlantis, NASA’s planned Friday (08 July) the launch of space shuttle Atlantis will be the end off of 135 and flagship for the space program since its debut in 1981. This equates to an average of 4.5 flights per year for the space shuttle program. While that figure is far from the frequency of once a week, NASA predicted in early 1970, the shuttle flew often sufficient to fundamentally change how humanity is seen and used space.

The move opened up space for our species as any vehicle I had before, and that – more than any cargo transport experiment only loft or science possible – is probably the greatest achievement of the vehicle, according to experts.

“Low Earth orbit has become a domain of routine human activities,” said Roger Launius, curator of history at the national airspace of the Smithsonian Institution and the Space Museum. “And the ship did more than anything else.” [8 amazing facts shuttle]

The Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station are two examples of increasing competition of humanity in low Earth orbit, the shuttle program and helped make both happen.

The shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble in 1990 in their mission STS-31. Within weeks, astronomers realized that something was wrong; the instrument was disappointing return blur. Astronauts on the STS-61 Endeavour fixed the telescope in 1993, and multiple transport missions since then continued to repair and upgrade Hubble. [Inset: The evolution of the space plane]

As a result, the telescope remains back stunning images that humanity rethinks the universe and our place in it.

“Without the shuttle, it would be a performance of today’s Hubble Space Telescope,” said an expert on space history Robert Pearlman, editor of the website and a contributor to

The shuttle has also been instrumental in building the International Space Station, the laboratory and 100 billion in orbit that was begun in 1998 and is now almost complete. About 40 shuttle missions have loft parts of the station to low Earth orbit in recent years.

It is too early to say what the legacy of the station will be, according to many experts, but has the potential to enable innovative research in many fields, from biology and medicine to materials science. It is also a highly complex structure whose assembly is a marvel of technological competition and international cooperation.

“I really believe that the expansion of human capabilities in space is the overall achievement of [the shuttle program],” said Valerie Neal, curator for contemporary human space flight at the Smithsonian. “And I think that both the Hubble Space Station and stand as representatives of that.”

While the shuttle program extending the capabilities of humanity beyond our planet, reusable space planes NASA also opened a space in a different way: is democratized to some extent, the final frontier more accessible a wider range of people.

In the early days of spaceflight, NASA relied on high-flying military test pilots with nerves of steel, such as Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong. But when the ship arrived, a much broader cross-section of people was able to mount a column of flame skyward.

Many astronauts transport in recent years have scientists by profession, for example – people of great achievement, certainly, but not people who have dedicated their lives to the aerospace industry exploits. And geriatrics can go into space on the shuttle, too: Ohio Senator John Glenn flew on STS-95 Discovery mission in 1998, when he was 77 years old. [More memorable Space Mission Shuttle]

“The shuttle basically redefined what” the right stuff “was,” Pearlman told

This rethinking of the perception probably has had a profound effect on human spaceflight in the future, helping pave the way for the nascent space tourism industry, said Neal.

“I think the shuttle really opened that possibility, mainly because it looked like an airplane,” said Neal told “It was a craft people could identify with, and could not imagine being comfortable riding in it.”

The Space Shuttle was originally conceived as a way to make spaceflight cheaper, reliable, frequent and safe. The vehicle then not keep that promise in its entirety, but was capable enough to enable mankind to establish a foothold, and some skills in a low Earth orbit. And that, experts say, will probably be a large part of his legacy.

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