Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour were their names and together they flew 135 missions, took 335 people into low earth orbit, flew 537,114,016 miles in orbit, launched and fixed Hubble Space Telescope, and helped construct the International Space Station. Fourteen people have died riding in shuttles.
Atlantis touched down just before 6 a.m. EDT on July 21, 2011, signaling the end of the space shuttle era, a program with 135 launches over 30 years and conceptual roots dating back to the Nixon administration. via NASA – Goddard Watches Atlantis’s Return.
I remember watching Columbia’s maiden voyage on live television in my 3rd grade classroom on April 12, 1981. I think President Reagan said a few words before hand to christen Columbia and the shuttle program.
There were two tragic accidents in the program’s 30 year history. Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff on January 28, 1986. Columbia broke up over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry on February 1, 2003.
President Reagan changed his State of the Union speech on January 28, 1986, and remarked, “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'” via NASA – President Reagan’s remarks following the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger and her crew..
After Columbia’s accident, President Bush remarked, “This day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country… The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.”