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.

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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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