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.
Now, you can watch Smithsonian Channel's incredible documentaries and shows anytime you want by purchasing from any of these distributors:
Access even more free Smithsonian Channel full episodes and documentaries online through participating TV providers.
Find out if your television provider carries Smithsonian Channel on air.
Don't panic! It's simple to upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers:
Don't panic! To get the best possible experience on smithsonianchannel.com we recommend you upgrade your operating system.
For the best possible site experience, please use Chrome for Android.
Add username "SmithsonianChan" on Snapchat for fun and fascinating facts. We'll be sharing spontaneous photos and videos as inspiration strikes.