Orbit: NASA's Space-Shuttle Program Ends

Unless the new Congress approves an appropriations bill sending hundreds of millions of dollars to NASA, the space agency will launch its final space-shuttle mission on February 27, at 3:35 p.m., give or take 10 minutes. As the $115 billion reusable-orbital program retires, we look back at six notable missions from its 30-year history.

STS-1: Columbia, 1981
Cost: $214 million
Distance traveled: 1,074,000 miles
Orbits: 37
Mission: Ensure safety of the space shuttle in takeoff, orbit and landing
Results: After 10 years of R&D, the shuttle proves that safely returning a crew to Earth is possible.

STS-F1L: Challenger, 1986
Cost: $328 million
Distance traveled: 18 miles
Orbits: 0
Mission: Deploy a communications satellite and a device to measure Halley's Comet
Results: It explodes 73 seconds after liftoff and kills seven astronauts.

STS-34: Atlantis, 1989
Cost: $499 million
Distance traveled: 1,800,000 miles
Orbits: 79
Mission: Launch an unmanned, Jupiter-bound Galileo probe
Results: The probe completes an eight-year-in-depth study of Jupiter and its moons.

STS-31: Discovery, 1990
Cost: $499 million
Distance traveled: 2,068,213 miles
Orbits: 80
Mission: Launch Hubble Space Telescope into orbit
Results: The Hubble's 20-year run gives scientists major insights into the age of expansion, age of the universe and the life cycle of stars.

STS-71: Atlantis, 1995
Cost: $407 million
Distance traveled: 4,100,000 miles
Orbits: 153
Mission: Dock to Russia's Mir space station
Results: The 100th U.S.-manned launch lays groundwork for the International Space Station. Russians and Americans trade spit in space for biomedical research.

STS-107: Columbia, 2003
$1.1 billion
Distance traveled: 6,600,000 miles
Orbits: 255
Mission: Conduct 58 research projects on cancer drugs, building foundations and firefighting
Results: Minutes before its landing, Columbia disintegrates, killing seven astronauts on board

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  • CraftLass

    This article is completely wrong about the end of the program. The next shuttle launch, mission STS-133 on Discovey, is slated for 2/24 at 4:50 pmEST, I know, I will be watching it from the press site. The launch window is between 2/24 and 3/6, actually. The shuttle mission after that, STS-134 on Endeavour, is scheduled for 4/19 at 7:48 pm as of now. The mission that may or may not be added according to the budget NASA receives would be STS-135 on Atlantis, which would launch in either June or August according to the most recent press conference on the matter. It's officially set for 6/28 at this point.

    I like Fast Company but this is a pretty easy thing to fact-check, rather disappointing to see such an error. The complete current schedule is up at http://www.nasa.gov/missions/h...

  • Jason Trafficpolice

    Were you even trying with this post? Give me a break. The next (and not last) launch for the shuttle program, STS-133, is now Friday February 25th (unless the Ariane 5 rocket launch scheduled for tomorrow is delayed another day, in which case the shuttle launch moves back up to Thursday the 24th at 4:50PM as it has been scheduled for the last 6 weeks).

    There are two more missions planned after 133. STS-134, space shuttle Endeavour, launches in April and the last one will be Atlantis on STS-135.