The Space Shuttle fleet set high marks of achievement and endurance through 30 years of missions, from its first, when STS-1 launched on April 12, 1981, to its last, when STS-135 landed on July 21, 2011. Beginning with the orbiter Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Space Shuttle has carried people into orbit; launched, recovered, and repaired satellites; conducted cutting-edge research; and helped build the largest artificial structure in space, the International Space Station.
As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle pushed the bounds of inquiry, requiring not only advanced technologies, but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce. Thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA Centers and across the Nation have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mission success and the greater goal of space exploration. For an entire generation, the Space Shuttle program defined NASA. This book is a tribute to everything accomplished during the Shuttle program’s 30 years of operation.