With budgets for space exploration falling toward the end of the 1960s, NASA began to make plans for a new kind of reusable spacecraft to save money: the space shuttle.
For years, the idea of a reusable spacecraft was the dream of early space pioneers, and in 1981, after almost a decade of engineering toil, the Space Shuttle Columbia finally lifted into orbit, ushering in a new era of space flight. Today, the shuttle’s work is complete but its engineering legacy will outlast those who built it. Relive its incredible 30-year history, from its groundbreaking achievements to its heartbreaking failures, as told by the people who designed, built, and flew this magnificent flying machine.
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