An Engineer Knew Challenger Was Doomed – But NASA Refused To Listen When He Tried To Stop The Launch

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Image: NASA

Then, four years after the program’s launch, NASA unveiled its first orbiter. After initially christening the craft Constitution, officials renamed it Enterprise – following a campaign led by fans of the science-fiction series Star Trek. And in 1977 the orbiter passed its first round of tests.

Image: NASA

On April 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle program subsequently conducted its first successful launch. The Columbia – the first properly operational orbiter – and its crew of two soared beyond Earth’s atmosphere and into orbit. Two days later, the craft then landed safely in California, ushering in a new period of space exploration. And over the next ten years, four more shuttles joined NASA’s ranks.

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Image: NASA

Initially, the Space Shuttle program aimed to complete some 50 launches every year, bringing flights down to a relatively affordable $20 million per trip. However, by the time that it concluded in 2011, the project’s 134 missions had cost NASA more than $200 billion – equating to almost $1.6 billion each.

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