Shuttle Landing Marks NASA Shift to Commercial Space Efforts
The space shuttle Atlantis’s scheduled landing in Florida today ends the last of 135 missions over 30 years that delivered the Hubble telescope into orbit and helped build the International Space Station.
With the shuttle’s return, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will leave the business of low-Earth orbital flight and use U.S. companies to develop spacecraft for taking people and cargo on short trips. It has partnerships with Boeing Co. (BA), Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and others to build such vehicles while it focuses on missions beyond the moon.
NASA “will take on the difficult and more risky challenges of deep-space exploration,” its administrator, Charles Bolden, said at a Federal Aviation Administration meeting on commercial space transportation May 11 in Washington.
The shuttle program began with the launch of Columbia in April 1981. Two orbiters were lost: Challenger exploded after liftoff in January 1986 and Columbia disintegrated on re- entering Earth’s atmosphere in February 2003.
Atlantis carried supplies and spare parts to the space station in its 12th visit to the orbiting outpost, which currently houses six crew members. U.S. shuttles made 46 trips to the station, built by the space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.
The first flight of Atlantis, in October 1985, was a classified mission for the Defense Department. The spacecraft pioneered flights to the Russian space station Mir. In 1989, Atlantis was the first shuttle to launch a planetary probe, sending the Magellan spacecraft to Venus.
Atlantis will remain at the Kennedy Space Center and go on display at the visitors’ center. Discovery will go to a Smithsonian Institution facility in Virginia and Endeavour heads for the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jerry Hart in Miami at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bloomberg moderates all comments. Comments that are abusive or off-topic will not be posted to the site. Excessively long comments may be moderated as well. Bloomberg cannot facilitate requests to remove comments or explain individual moderation decisions.