Top Ten Shuttle Memories
Highlights from America's longest-lived space program.
- By Tony Reichhardt
- AirSpaceMag.com, July 08, 2011
Almost from the beginning, the space shuttle was a victim of its own success. NASA set out to establish routine transportation to Earth orbit, and that’s just what the shuttle became in the public eye—routine. The astronauts and flight directors knew different, but casual viewers could be forgiven if they tuned out space missions that all seemed alike, and were so well executed that they became predictable.
Occasionally, though, the public did tune in. There were the accidents, of course—Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. But beyond those tragedies, there were moments when the personalities, or the payloads, or the sheer beauty of the photos turned our attention to NASA’s spaceplane and the people who flew it.
Here are 10 of those memorable moments, starting with the launch of the first shuttle, STS-1, in 1981 (above). No space vehicle had ever launched with astronauts on its first flight. And none is likely to do it again.
See the gallery above for more of our Top 10 Shuttle Moments. Let us know your favorites, and tell us which ones we missed.