'Big Mental Switch': Remembering Shuttle Endeavour's Maiden Voyage (Part 2)

With the possible exception of Columbia and the very first space shuttle mission, few orbiters had as dramatic and exciting a maiden voyage as Endeavour. On STS-49, she provided a reliable stage for the longest EVA in history and the first three-man EVA in history. Despite the trials and tribulations of the flight, she […]

'Where We Either Succeeded or Failed': Remembering Shuttle Endeavour's Maiden Voyage (Part 1)

In the first, and so far only, three-person EVA, astronauts Rick Hieb, Tom Akers and Pierre Thuot manhandle Intelsat 603 into Endeavour’s payload bay for the attachment of a new rocket motor. Photo Credit: NASA

“Ready. Ready. Grab!”

The words of Rick Hieb echoed through the silent Mission Control Center (MCC) at the Johnson […]

Astronaut Don Thomas, Veteran of 'Repeat' Shuttle Mission, Turns 60 Today

Don Thomas, pictured in March 2002, during training for Expedition 6. Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut Don Thomas—one of only four humans to have flown Shuttle Columbia as many as three times, joint record-holder for the shortest interval between two discrete space flights, and a member of 1995’s famous “All-Ohio Mission”—turns 60 today (Wednesday, 6 […]

'The Lord Protected Grandpa': 30 Years Since Mission 51B (Part 2)

During the majority of the seven-day mission, Challenger operated in a gravity gradient orientation, with her vertical stabilizer directed Earthward and her starboard wing pointing in the direction of travel. Image Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Thirty years ago, this week, a seven-man crew with a combined age of 340 years rocketed into orbit […]

A Long Wait for Space: 30 Years Since Mission 51B (Part 1)

Challenger roars into orbit on 29 April 1985. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Thirty years ago, this week, Challenger was circling the Earth on the first dedicated Spacelab science flight of the shuttle era. For seven days, the crew of Mission 51B—Commander Bob Overmyer, Pilot Fred Gregory, Mission Specialists Don Lind, Norm Thagard, and […]

'I Went Flying, All Right!' Remembering Challenger Pilot Mike Smith on His 70th Birthday

Mike Smith, the pilot of Challenger’s final mission. Photo Credit: NASA

When we think of “astronauts,” we think of the hundreds of heroes who have voyaged beyond the sensible atmosphere, into low-Earth orbit, and beyond, into cislunar space, lunar orbit, and even the dusty surface of the Moon itself. However, it is a sad […]

Dawn of an Era: Remembering Shuttle Columbia's Maiden Launch

 

Thirty-four years ago, today, at dawn, Columbia roared into orbit, heralding the dawn of a new era in U.S. space exploration. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Thirty-four years ago, today, on 12 April 1981, the first winged orbital space vehicle carrying human pilots was launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) […]

Stretching the Shuttle: 25 Years Since the EDO Decision

Columbia is approached by servicing vehicles on the runway on 7 December 1996, after concluding STS-80, the shuttle program’s longest Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) mission. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, this week, NASA and Rockwell International reached a historic agreement which would, both figuratively and literally, “extend” the shuttle and its myriad capabilities […]

Veteran Shuttle Pilot and Adventurer Bill Oefelein Turns 50 Today

Bill Oefelein was one of the first members of his astronaut class to venture into space and the first Alaskan to reach orbit. He turns 50 today. Photo Credit: NASA

Although he forged an unfortunate place in popular culture and gained intense media attention in early 2007 as part of a bizarre “love triangle,” […]

Ready for Space Station Building: The First 50 Years of Spacewalking (Part 5)

Story Musgrave works at the end of Endeavour’s mechanical arm during activities to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in December 1993. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost a quarter-century ago, in April 1991, the effort to build today’s International Space Station (ISS) got underway with a pair of spacewalks—one unplanned—outside the shuttle Atlantis. During STS-37, […]