The Space Shuttle program known officially as the Space Transportation System operated from 1981 to 2011. The shuttle has the distinction of being the only winged manned spacecraft that not only achieved orbit but also was the lander and was the only reusable space vehicle to make multiple flights into orbit.
|Walkway to shuttle at launch|
After watching so many landings in the sea with the earlier programs, it was exciting to see the shuttle actually land on an airstrip. Just as exciting was seeing the shuttle piggybacked on a 747 to be transported from a California landing strip to the Florida space facility.
The program lasted so long that the media rarely mentioned the launches, connections with the space shuttle and the landings. Of course they were right there for the Challenger and Columbia disasters where we unfortunately lost several astronauts and scientists and a teacher. As cable and satellite TV grew more popular, NASA came up with its own channel and true enthusiasts like my son and his son could watch every launch and every mission.
|Vehicle Assembly Building|
|Launch pad #39|
While we couldn't see the Atlantis, up the road from Kennedy just outside the Astronauts Hall of Fame (included in your general admission ticket) is the Inspiration, a mock up of the real space shuttles. It was quite impressive and a good tease for what will be the real thing when the Atlantis exhibit opens.
Today the space station is supplied by private industry and other countries launching space vehicles. NASA is now gearing up for further adventures however. Exploring other planets and deep space is now a joint venture with some commercial companies.
We walked through a display that explained the use of robots to explore planets and outer space. The Hubble is sending back amazing pictures and the Mars rover is sending back vital information to help us learn if man can survive on Mars--all in preparation for some spectacular adventures, but a travel adventure I'll pass on for now.