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The Space Shuttle program was expensive to operate, and maintaining the twenty-plus year old Orbiters was getting more costly. The Space Shuttle was essential for completing the ISS, but would not be helpful for the new program called Constellation that would take us out of low Earth orbit.

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It wasn't just the money though. There is a very limited pool of people that have expertise in space flight operations, and even an even smaller pool for human spaceflight operations.


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ISS couldn't spare its people, but if the Space Shuttle was being phased out, its workers could be shifted to the new program. Although unfortunate, there was logic to it all.


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The problem was that building brand new spacecraft that have new missions means developing new technologies. That means entering unknown territory in which surprises and complications always arise and things take longer and cost more than anticipated - especially when that anticipation is wrapped in lowest bidder contracts. Congress did not provide the funds needed to complete the CEV per the required schedule. Unfunded work had to be slipped out into later years.

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The five Orbiters have accumulated before the last flight of Atlantis on missions days 19 hours 24 minutes 43 seconds in flight and made 20 orbits of Earth. The Shuttle was lifted atop a modified Boeing Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and made five test flights totalling 19 minutes of free flight. Enterprise is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Columbia OV was the first Shuttle to fly to space and as the oldest member of the fleet it was slightly heavier than its successors, which benefited from advances in technology.

Space Shuttle Program Fast Facts

The first four flights of Columbia put the spacecraft through its paces. It was equipped with ejection seats, activated for the test flights and removed after the ninth flight.

The Space Shuttle (Narrated by William Shatner)

Columbia was destroyed during reentry on 1 February when it was coming back to home from STS, its 28th flight. The seven astronauts died in the accident, one of the reasons which brought about the end of the Space Shuttle programme. Columbia spent days 17 hours 46 minutes 42 seconds in space, completed orbits, and flew km. Challenger was destroyed during the launch of its tenth mission, on 28 January , killing all seven members of the crew. It completed nine flights before the last ill-fated launch, totalling 62 days 07 hours 56 minutes 15 seconds.

Space Shuttle Program Fast Facts - CNN

Challenger orbited Earth times. The three remaining orbiters, as well as Enterprise which did not fly into space but was only used in landing tests in , were placed in museums across the United States.

For additional information on the space shuttle, see space exploration. Space shuttle. Article Media. Info Print Cite.

NASA’s recent woes took root with loss of space shuttle...

Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Read More on This Topic. After the success of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA proposed an ambitious plan for a series of large space stations to be developed during…. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. After the success of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA proposed an ambitious plan for a series of large space stations to be developed during the s and a new reusable space transportation system to send people and supplies to those stations, lunar bases,….

When the space shuttle was declared operational in , it became the sole American launch vehicle providing such services. After the Challenger accident, however, the shuttle was prohibited from launching commercial payloads. This created an opportunity for the U.