'Thanks for the Lift': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took Free-Flight

Enterprise’s flights, 40 years ago, laid the groundwork for the Free Flights and eventually the maiden Space Shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA

They gathered in their thousands—65,000, in fact—at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in the cool, pre-dawn hours of Friday, 12 August 1977, to witness America’s first Space Shuttle take flight and perform […]

'Magic Carpet Ride': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took the Space Shuttle to Altitude (Part 2)

Enterprise’s Captive-Active flights, which began 40 years ago, this month, laid the groundwork for the Free Flights and eventually the maiden Space Shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA

The Approach and Landing Test (ALT) series of the Space Shuttle, which began 40 years ago, in the summer of 1977, were “just that”, in the words […]

'In a Real Flight Environment': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took the Space Shuttle to Altitude (Part 1)

Flying Enterprise for her test flights were (from left) Gordon Fullerton, Fred Haise, Joe Engle and Dick Truly. Photo Credit: NASA

Four decades ago, this summer, a shuttle (though not a “space” shuttle) took to the skies above Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to show the world what she could do. Outwardly, Orbiter Vehicle […]

'Just Unreal What It Had Done': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 2)

Like a flying brick, Columbia descends towards White Sands on 30 March 1982. This view was acquired from one of the NASA T-38 jets, flying chase that morning. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years ago, in the final week of March 1982, Commander Jack Lousma and Pilot Gordon Fullerton flew Space Shuttle Columbia on her […]

'Not a Good Place to Land': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 1)

Columbia touches down at the mountain-ringed White Sands site in New Mexico on 30 March 1982. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost four decades ago, and two years ahead of the first Space Shuttle launch, NASA took the unusual step of selecting a great white blotch of compacted salt and gypsum in New Mexico’s Tularosa Valley […]

'Better Than Any Simulation': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took the Shuttle From Ground to Air (Part 2)

Boasting the aerodynamic tail cone for four of the independent flights, Enterprise demonstrated the capabilities of the space shuttle in the low atmosphere. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty years ago, this fall, the first member of NASA’s space shuttle fleet was structurally complete and well on the way toward her first mission. Yet unlike the […]

'In A Real Flight Environment': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took the Shuttle From Ground to Air (Part 1)

NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) is pictured here with Shuttle Enterprise during the first of the shuttle program’s Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in summer 1977. Photo Credit: NASA

When we think of the space shuttle, we think of the five spaceworthy orbiter vehicles—Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, […]

'Cola and Solar Wars': 30 Years Since the Unlucky Success of Mission 51F (Part 2)

The Instrument Pointing System (IPS) was flown for the first time on Mission 51F. It would later be reflown on a pair of dedicated astronomy missions in 1990 and 1995. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Three decades have now passed since one of the most dramatic missions—and one of the most dramatic months—in […]

'Going to Spain': 30 Years Since the Unlucky Success of Mission 51F (Part 1)

After one false start, Challenger roars into orbit on 29 July 1985, to begin the Spacelab-2 science mission. It would be one of the most dramatic near-misses in the 30-year shuttle program. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty years ago, this week, one of the most significant Space Shuttle science missions ever undertaken hung—for the merest […]

'Quiet as a Crypt': The Shuttle Launch Pad Aborts (Part 1)

Close-up view of Discovery’s three main engines—still exhibiting evidence of scorching from their momentary ignition on 26 June 1984—in the wake of the shuttle program’s first RSLS abort. Photo Credit: NASA

Throughout its 30-year career—consciously or unconsciously—the space shuttle was acknowledged to be one of the most dangerous piloted space vehicles ever brought to […]