The Space Shuttle Program of NASA is officially called Space Transportation System (STS) was the manned launch vehicle program launched during the period of 1981 to 2011 by the government of US .
The Space shuttle program was originally launched in the year 1972 in the form of a ‘Space Truck’. Its aim was to build US Space stations on low earth orbit but later it evolved into an International Space Station. But it suffered from delays in time and changes in design of the station. STS was the only winged space craft with the ability to orbit and land. They were reusable and can make multiple flights in the orbit which made them more compatible.
Its missions include carrying large payloads to different orbits, crew rotation for International Space stations and providing service. It also recovers satellite from the orbits and returns them to earth. The projected life span of each shuttle was 100 launches. It had the capacity to carry 4 to7 people. The shuttle could independently move out of its orbit when its mission gets complete using its Orbital Maneuvering System and re enter the earth’s atmosphere.
In the year 1976, the first experimental orbiter was launched with the aim of atmospheric handling test for the flights. The first launch was made on April12, 1981, with Columbia and STS-1. It ended with the last mission STS-135. It was flown by Atlantis in July 2011. It retired the final shuttle in the fleet, almost 15 years later than the stipulated time. Even after such strong dedication of large number of people and a large amount of money spent on this project, it was criticized on the basis of delay, low achievements, high costs and accidents.
In 135 missions, of the Space Shuttle Program, two shuttles Challenger and Columbia met with accident resulting in the loss of total 14 astronauts and the space shuttle. Although, this program did not achieve as much as had been expected but it definitely marked a new era of space traveling and aeronautics. The retirement of the Shuttle, the most complex vehicle ever built put an end to the era of various space activities of America, performed by a single vehicle or a single organization. These functions will be done now by many space crafts and organizations.
NASA’s shuttle program finally ended on 31 August 2011, one month after the last shuttle mission landed on the earth. From then onwards all the related work regarding the shuttles, which mainly centers on their display in the museums is being looked after Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement Office.