When President John F. Kennedy set the goal for landing astronauts on the Moon, NASA was an organization less than three years old and had achieved only 15 minutes of human spaceflight experience. Some experts doubted Kennedy’s aggressive timeline could be met—but not NASA’s young technical workforce. Those engineers would engineers would confront hundreds of technical challenges in the years leading to the Apollo 11 lunar landing. This article tells some of those stories.
This article discusses the preparation, planning, and execution efforts of Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum staff and other teams involved in getting the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise to new pavilion. Getting the Intrepid ready and ensuring the Enterprise would be safely transported posed an enormous task that involved more than a year of planning, hundreds of people, thousands of hours of effort, and a list of government agencies, companies, and contractors. The addition of the Enterprise and the opening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion on July 19 are an expansion of Intrepid’s space connection. Enterprise’s journey to the Intrepid began in December 2008 when NASA was considering where to place the orbiters after the space shuttle program ended. All that were involved in the preparation, planning, and execution of Enterprise’s trip to the Intrepid could see that their challenging work, expertise, and dedication to the task contributed to a perfect, three-wire carrier landing.
This article analyzes the decisions and technological challenges that drove the Space Shuttle’s development. The goal of the Shuttle program was to create a reusable vehicle that could reduce the cost of delivering humans and large payloads into space. Although the Shuttle was a remarkable flying machine, it never lived up to the goals of an airline-style operation with low operating costs. In January 2004, a year after the Columbia accident, President George W. Bush unveiled the “Vision for U.S. Space Exploration” to guide the U.S. space effort for the next two decades. A major component of the new vision, driven by the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, was to retire the Space Shuttle fleet as soon as the International Space Station assembly was completed. With cancellation of the Constellation program in 2010, the planned successor to the Shuttle, the U.S. space program is now in an era of uncertainty.
This report highlights on run-up to success, the American space program that had absorbed a series of high-profile embarrassments as the Soviet Union, with which the United States was competing in a so-called Space Race, seemed to remain one step ahead. To declare so publicly the goal to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade was to risk another humbling loss. At the time, the public spotlight shined on the face of the space program, the astronauts who had already become national heroes. One of the biggest issues to settle was the mission architecture—the steps through which spacecraft would be launched, landed on the moon, and returned safely. The engineers who designed the remarkable pieces of space hardware were only a part of the overall Apollo team. Thousands of engineers were involved in launch processing and monitoring the flights. In an era when computer systems were primitive compared to what we have today, constant communication between the astronauts and an army of engineers back in Houston was critical to ensure the safety of the astronauts as well as the success of the mission.