'Making Superman Jealous': 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 1)

Eileen Collins, the first female spacecraft commander in history, floats in Columbia’s middeck, 15 years ago this week. Photo Credit: NASA

“It’s great to be back in zero-g again,” said STS-93 commander Eileen Collins, early on 23 July 1999, as she and her four crewmates set about preparing the Shuttle Columbia for five […]

'Like Drowned Rats': 30 Years Since the Maiden Countdown of Discovery (Part 2)

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 Redundant Set Launch Sequencer (RSLS) abort. Photo Credit: NASA

“ … We have a Go for main engine start … ”

The preparations proceeded remarkably […]

'Silent, Except for the Wind': 30 Years Since the Maiden Countdown of Discovery (Part 1)

Thirty years ago, this week, Discovery prepared for her maiden voyage and the third shuttle flight of 1984. On 26 June, it brought NASA face to face with the harsh nature of launching humans into space. Photo Credit: NASA

“T-31 seconds … We have a Go for autosequence start … Discovery’s computers now […]

To the Brink, From the Brink: Happy 24th Birthday, Hubble (Part 2)

Discovery rockets into the highest orbit ever attained by a shuttle on 24 April 1990. Photo Credit: NASA

More than two decades ago, this very week, one of the most important missions in the annals of scientific discovery got underway with the launch of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. This enormous, $1.5 billion observatory, […]

The Eighth Wonder: Happy 24th Birthday, Hubble (Part 1)

Since its inaugural deployment from the shuttle in April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has peered deeper into the cosmos than ever before in human history. Photo Credit: NASA

“If there were ever two missions that were completely opposite in terms of the public attention that was given to them,” astronaut Loren Shriver […]

'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 […]

'Ready for a Margarita': 17 Years Since the Shuttle’s Second Hubble Servicing Mission (Part 2)

At the very “top” of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts Greg Harbaugh (left) and Joe Tanner work on the magnetometer cover task. Mark Lee compared Tanner’s ascent to riding his Harley. Photo Credit: NASA

Seventeen years ago this week, NASA launched its second shuttle Servicing Mission (SM-2) to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). […]

'A Lot of Unknowns': 17 Years Since the Shuttle's Second Hubble Servicing Mission (Part 1)

Barely illuminated by sunlight, Joe Tanner is pictured during EVA-4 on STS-82. Photo Credit: NASA

Seventeen years ago this week, NASA launched its second shuttle Servicing Mission (SM-2) to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The $1.5 billion observatory has earned itself a well-deserved reputation as one of the most successful space-based instruments ever […]

Mission 61C: The Original ‘Mission Impossible’ (Part 2)

“Mission Impossible” finally launches as Columbia roars into the darkened Florida skies on 12 January 1986. Photo Credit: NASA

On Mission 61C, launched on this day (12 January) in 1986, Space Shuttle Columbia was making her first orbital flight in over two years. Late in January 1984, a month after returning from her […]

Mission 61C: The Original ‘Mission Impossible’ (Part 1)

Columbia swoops like a bird of prey into Edwards Air Force Base on 18 January 1986, just 10 days ahead of the Challenger tragedy. Commander Robert “Hoot” Gibson would later refer to this mission as “The End of Innocence” … for after Challenger the shuttle program would never be the same again. Photo […]