The Space Shuttle Era: 1981-2011

The Space Shuttle Era: 1981-2011

Between the first launch on April 12, 1981, and the final landing on July 21, 2011, NASA's space shuttle fleet -- Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station and inspired generations.
> Space Shuttle Era

Hi, I am Paul. Welcome to my Space shuttle page. I am a NASA space shuttle advocate. In 2009 I was a invited NASA guest for the STS-119 & STS-128 launches at KSC. I created and ran the Space Shuttle myspace page. This site highlights my personal experience with the space shuttle program. Check out my KISS and GARBAGE concert pictures. Thanks and enjoy my site.


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STS-119 MARCH 15, 2009

Image above: Me with the countdown clock at our VIP site!

Well let me tell you that there is no video or coverage you have seen on tv that even comes close to what being live 3 miles away from a space shuttle launch feels & sounds like. It was just amazing. I dreamed all my life for a chance to witness a shuttle launch from the closest viewing area possible and on Sunday evening March 15, 2009 my dream came true.........

The following video was filmed by me (in full 1080p HD) and the pictures below where taken between my 2 friends (Stacy & Robby) who where lucky enough to come with me as guests. 

Thank you Kennedy Space Center & NASA,




Image above: Me in front of the VAB April 18, 2009

April 19, 2009: Wow, yesterday's visit to the Kennedy Space Center for Family Day 2009 was just a awesome experience that I will never forget. Lets see first of all both Atlantis and Endeavour where out on the launch pads (pad 39A & pad 39B). The RSS was rotated away from both orbiters (meaning they where uncovered). I got to drive IN MY CAR out to both launch pads....I mean right up to them! After the drive out to the pads I got to go inside OPF-3 where Discovery was. The SSME's (space shuttle main engines) where out. They where removed after Discovery completed the STS-119 mission last month. The SSME's are removed and serviced after every flight. I also got to walk inside the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). It was just amazing to see the space shuttle operations up close and personal.

I want to give out a big thanks to my friend Josh who works at KSC. Josh got me in for the event yesterday. Enjoy a few of my pictures below. I took like 200 pictures in all.

I was this close to Atlantis when I took the picture!

Atlantis seen as we drove around pad 39A

Endeavour seen in the far distance as we approach pad 39B

My view of Endeavour on pad 39B from my car!

Discovery's aft section with SSME's out seen inside OPF-3

Discovery inside OPF-3

Me in front of Discovery inside OPF-3, I was this close!

SSME on display in OPF-3

WOW, I was inside the VAB!

I looked up while inside the VAB to take this picture!


128 AUGUST 28, 2009

Image above: Me waiting to go out to the VIP site!

Well my dream came true again to witness a shuttle launch from the closest viewing area possible and on Friday evening August 28, 2009 @ one minute till midnight I watched Discovery blast off on the STS-128 mission. A night time launch is something else. The sound was much louder than when I was here for my 1st VIP launch. It was just amazing to be only 3.2 miles away from the launch. You could see lightning out over the ocean behind the shuttle just before launch. The night sky lit up as if it was daylight as the shuttle cleared the tower. As Discovery was about to go to throttle up the shuttle was approaching a low cloud and lit up the cloud and then just burned a hole out in the cloud as they flew through it. Wow.........

The following video was not filmed by me and the pictures below where taken from the video. So they are not as good as the pictures I got from my 1st VIP launch STS-119. The video was filmed right next to me so it shows you what I saw from my VIP seat. You can see me in the video at the very beginning & I am in the 1st picture below.

Thanks out again to Kennedy Space Center & NASA for giving me a 2nd VIP experience,


I got to meet
Astronaut Tom Jones while I was at KSC for
the STS-128 launch. I bought his book "Sky Walking" and
he signed it for me. Tom flew on space shuttle flights
STS-59, STS-68, STS-80 & STS-98.


Image above: Me in the Space Shuttle SMS July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011: I finally got to visit Johnson Space Center, Houston Texas. I got to take a personal tour of JSC that you just don't get to do on the public tour. Our day started out on a tour of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) where we got to see 2 Astronauts training for an EVA. I got to fly the Space Shuttle Motion Base Simulator (SMS). I also got to visit inside the old Apollo flight control room and Mission Control rooms for Space Shuttle & International Space Station (ISS). I got to go inside one of the Space Shuttle mockups and some of the ISS mockups in building 9. The day ended with us going over to Ellington Field for the STS-135 crew return ceremony. It was just amazing to go on this personal tour of Johnson Space Center.

I want to give out a big thanks to my friend Bonnie who works at JSC. Bonnie got me in and took me on my personal tour. Enjoy a few of my pictures below.

My certificate for successfully landing the SMS!


The inside of the SMS.

What the outside of the SMS looks like.


On the flight deck of the Space Shuttle mockup.

The inside of the ISS Destiny lab mockup.

Me inside the ISS Node 2 mockup.


The STS-135 banner that was hanging in the
Space Shuttle Mission Control room.


Me setting at the Flight Director's station inside
the Space Shuttle Mission Control room.


STS-135 crew at Ellington Field Houston, TX July 22, 2011

Video I filmed of the crowd that was at the STS-135 crew
return ceremony at Ellington Field, Houston July 22, 2011

This site is dedicated to the crews of
Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia
who gave their lives for our US space program
and to all of our Astronauts who have flown
and will fly into space!


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

NASA’s Space Shuttle was the most capable, versatile and reliable space-faring vehicle ever built. As a major transportation link between Earth and low Earth orbit (LEO), the Shuttle  kept the United States on the cutting edge of space exploration and scientific discovery from 1981 through 2011.

The Space Shuttle was a unique vehicle with unrivaled capabilities. It was the launch vehicle for all U.S. and many international components of the International Space Station (ISS).

The Space Shuttle’s extensive capabilities included:
• Payload deployment
• On-orbit assembly
• Crew transfer
• On-orbit research
• Satellite retrieval and repair
• On-orbit, point-to-point maneuvering of people and cargo
• Cargo return

No other launch vehicle – either in development or in operation today – can match the Space Shuttle’s capabilities. The missions of the Space Shuttle ranged from the retrieval and return of errant satellites, the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, the deployment of probes to study distant planets, dockings with the Russian space station Mir and assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

As missions have become increasingly more challenging over the years, the most adaptable and capable element of Space Shuttle operations has proven time and again to be human beings. Human involvement in space operations provides the unique aspects of observation, interaction and intervention that can reduce risk and make the difference between the failure and success of multi-million dollar missions.


Since its first flight in 1981, the Shuttle has flown 135 times, carrying over two-thirds of the humans ever to have flown in space. The Shuttle fleet has logged more than 300 million miles – well in excess of the distance from the Earth to the Sun and back – and has carried more than 2.1 million pounds of cargo and more than 700 major payloads into orbit. The fleet has accumulated more than 700 days of total flight time, equating to more than 10 years of total person time in space.

The Space Shuttle's past missions have affected our lives in fundamental ways, through improvements in a wide range of fields such as patient care, communications, education, and agriculture.

The Future

Construction in orbit of the International Space Station began in 1998. The Shuttle played a pivotal role in the assembly of the International Space Station. The Shuttle provided the tools, technology and human ingenuity to assemble and operate the Space Station in the unforgiving and challenging environment of Earth’s orbit. The Space Shuttle's flew to and from the Space Station carrying astronauts, major structural components and supplies. Upon completion of the International Space Station NASA retired the Space Shuttle program in 2011.


The reusable Orbiters are only a part of the overall Shuttle system. The Shuttle system consists of an Orbiter Vehicle (OV), an External Tank (ET), and twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), which together weigh 4.5 million pounds fully fueled, produce seven million pounds of thrust, and are capable of lifting up to 65,000 pounds of cargo to orbit, plus a flight crew to manipulate the cargo.


Each Orbiter is 121 feet long with a wingspan of 78 feet – about the size of a DC-9 commercial airliner. Its payload bay measures 60 by 15 feet. The forward fuselage houses the pressurized crew cabin including the cockpit and crew working and living areas. The mid-body consists of the payload bay, the wing, and main landing gear attach points. The aft fuselage holds the main engines, the orbital maneuvering system (OMS), the reaction control system (RCS) and the vertical tail. Each Orbiter is designed for a lifetime of 100 flights.

External Tank (ET)

The ET, which is the only major component of the Space Shuttle that is not reusable, is 154 feet long and 28.6 feet in diameter. To meet the needs for flights to the International Space Station, a new super lightweight tank was recently developed that incorporates aluminum-lithium in its internal structures, reducing the overall tank weight by 7,500 pounds. Weighing slightly more than 71,000 pounds without fuel, the ET weighs 1.67 million pounds with a full load of liquid propellant and oxidizer. Thousands of gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen are drawn from the tank by the Shuttle’s main propulsion system during ascent. Once orbit is achieved, the tank is ejected and disintegrates in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs)

Each Shuttle is equipped with two SRBs that provide the initial thrust and acceleration to allow the main engines to carry the Orbiter into space. The boosters are 116 feet long, 12 feet in diameter and contain more than one million pounds of solid propellant. The propellant burns at 5,800 degrees and each SRB delivers 2.65 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. After two minutes, at an altitude of about 24 miles, the boosters separate from the ET and descend by parachute into the ocean, where they are collected for refurbishment and reuse. The Shuttle SRBs are the largest solid rocket propellant motors ever built and the first to be used on a human-rated spacecraft.

Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSMEs)

The SSMEs are the most reliable and highly tested large rocket engines ever built. With a maximum thrust at sea level of more than 418,000 pounds each, they work in tandem with the solid rocket boosters from liftoff until SRB separation, about two minutes after launch, after which they are the sole means of propelling the Orbiter into space. The engines are gimbaled to steer the Shuttle during the climb to orbit. Normal engine operating time during ascent is about 8.5 minutes, and each engine has a designed operating lifetime of about 7.5 cumulative hours.


Space Shuttle Videos Space Shuttle Video Library
Video highlights from every shuttle mission, narrated by the astronauts. Space Shuttle Mission Patches are included on each page. Mission Posters are included from Flight 114. Each video is about 20 minutes long. Click on the picture to the left. Link takes you to the National Space Society.

Atlantis docked with the International Space Station
Image used with permission from: Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal,
Clay Center Observatory Dexter and Southfield Schools

This remarkable image of the space shuttle orbiter Atlantis docked with the International Space Station (ISS) during the STS-117 mission was taken at a range of 190 nautical miles. To record the fast moving pair, astronomers at Clay Center Observatory, near Boston, Massachusetts, planet Earth, used a satellite tracking system and 25-inch diameter telescope in combination with a digital video camera. In the sharp picture, Atlantis is below and left of center. The aft view shows three main engines just below its vertical tail glinting in the sunlight. With the Sun shining from below, the body of the orbiter casts a long shadow across the ISS itself and impressive details of the ISS solar arrays used for power generation are easily visible. The large set of solar arrays installed at the lower right was delivered during this visit from Atlantis.


Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
Job 22:12

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Some pictures & information where used
with permission from United Space Alliance