40 years ago today, the Space Shuttle dream became reality

It was 40 years ago today that President Richard Nixon, pictured sitting opposite then NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher on January 5, 1972, announced that the country "should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory."

The Space Transportation System may be no more, but in a sense we're in the same situation folks were back in '72, just one word different: waiting for the Deep Space Transportation System. In another 40 years, we'll be reading a story that's been piped to our iBrains about how the DSTS may be ending, but hey, we still got that lunar outpost and that colony on Mars.

While the consensus today is that the Shuttle didn't deliver on its promise of being cheap and frequent — original plans called for nearly 50 flights a year, and the fleet managed 135 missions in three decades — as someone who was standing on the lawn when Atlantis embarked on STS-135, it did deliver on being one of the single greatest representations of the heights humanity and engineering can soar to, both literally and figuratively.

We've written quite a bit about the STS program, and I've selected some of our best pieces for you to glance back at down below. Additionally, you can read Nixon's full address, as well as Fletcher's vision, here.

More on The Shuttle


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