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The 21st Century Space Shuttle

Turning 100

IMAGE: Space shuttle at lift offNow at the dawn of the 21st century, the space shuttle is about to launch for the 100th time when Discovery lifts off this year on STS-92, an International Space Station assembly flight. By that time, the space shuttle will have launched about 1.36 million kilograms (3 million pounds) of cargo into space and 624 passengers. The shuttle fleet will cumulatively have spent almost 2 ½ years in orbit and amassed almost 15 years of passenger-hours in flight. More than 850 payloads will have flown, and the shuttle will have deployed more than 60 payloads and retrieved more than two dozen. The shuttle has supported two space stations; made three maintenance flights to the Hubble Space Telescope; launched planetary missions to study Jupiter, Venus and the Sun; and conducted hundreds of studies of the effects of weightlessness on materials, plants, animals and human beings in onboard laboratories. Although flying for two decades, the shuttle still will have more than three-quarters of its design lifetime available. Out of 100 flights designed for each orbiter, when STS-92 — the 100th overall flight for the program — is completed, Discovery will be the most-flown shuttle with 28 flights to its credit. Columbia will be second with 26 flights. Atlantis will have made 22 trips to space and Endeavour will have completed 14 flights.

Exploration of Space

IMAGE: Astronaut John Young

“The exploration of space will never be without risk. But it is mandatory that we use the best technology, human expertise and human dedication available to minimize that risk at all times. And it is certain that the benefits to humanity are worth the risk we cannot avoid.”
— Astronaut John Young, assistant director, Johnson Space Center, and commander of the first space shuttle mission.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: Amiko Kauderer | Updated: 04/06/2009
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