Space Shuttle: Developing an Icon 1972-2013
Item # 1000729
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During 30 years and 135 missions, space shuttle carried more crew members to orbit than all other launch systems combined and achieved a staggering record of success. Unfortunately, it was accompanied by a tragic record of failure, with two accidents claiming the lives of fourteen astronauts and other incidents claiming several ground personnel. But as Richard Truly, an astronaut and NASA administrator once said, "Flying in space is a bold business. We cannot print enough money to make it totally risk-free." It was not meant as an excuse, simply a statement of fact regarding the physics of planet earth and chemical rockets.

Because it flew for so long, most of the people alive today do not remember a time when space shuttle was not flying. The public was enthralled, the politicians somewhat less so, the space cadets even less. Space shuttle was meant as a stepping-stone to broader exploration but the funding and political will never materialized, leaving the vehicle with little meaningful work for most of its flight campaign. Only near the end was it able to demonstrate its intended purpose, building a space station. But that station was a shell of those envisioned when space shuttle was approved.

All of this has left an uncertain legacy for one of the most visible engineering achievements of the 20th century. This book is not meant to establish that legacy, but to document the development, technology, and, to a lesser extent, the flight campaign. Some future historian will need to determine the ultimate worthiness of the program. About all we can say for certain is that it was one hell of a ride.

  • Volume I: Setting the Stage
  • Volume II: Technical Description
  • Volume III: The Flight Campaign