The Space Shuttle launched on 8 July was on its last mission, bringing three decades of flights of this unique spaceplane to a close. ESA’s new website highlights this era and its important role in European space endeavours.
The boxy black and white craft is the queen of technological marvels from the late 20th century. From its first launch in 1981 the Space Shuttle has been the way to fly to space for many of humankind.
It has transformed spaceflight: it dispatched and partially even returned many satellites and deep-space probes, it helped to end the Cold War by docking with Russia’s Mir space station and it made assembly of the International Space Station possible.
Impressively, the Hubble Space Telescope was delivered into orbit, repaired and maintained by Shuttle on five missions.
With some 2.5 million moving parts, the orbiter with three main engines fuelled from the huge external tank, and the complementary twin solid rocket boosters form a package that is perhaps the most complex technological system ever built.