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NASA's Space Shuttle Fleet Celebrates 25 Years of Spaceflight

On April12, 1981, NASA's premiere space shuttle Columbia launched into orbit withastronauts John Young and Robert Crippen at the helm, inauguratingthe U.S. shuttle era.

After 25years of spaceflight, NASA's orbiter fleet has sent planetary probes on theirway to Venusand Jupiter,helped astronauts retrieve and repair satellites, launched the Hubble Space Telescope and plays acrucial role in the ongoing construction of the InternationalSpace Station.

But theroad has not been smooth. Two shuttles and 14 astronauts have been lost duringNASA's 1986Challenger accident and the 2003Columbia disaster. NASA's three remaining orbiters are now marked for a2010 retirementto make way for a capsule-based vehicle,heralding the end of the U.S. space plane fleet.

Thefollowing is SPACE.com's coverage of NASA's space shuttle silveranniversary.

More About the Space Shuttle from SPACE.com

For moreon NASA's next space shuttle flight:

  • STS-121 Shuttle Commander Confident inJuly Launch Target
  • NASA Set for Shuttle Fuel Tank Repair
  • Return to Flight: NASA's Road to STS-121
  • SPACE.com's Collection of Launch and Mission Archives

Enjoythese Space Shuttle themed image galleries:

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Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.