The End of the NASA Shuttle Program
Introduced in 1981, NASA’s space shuttle program (officially known as the Space Transportation System) began transporting crews of astronauts to space to assist in the launch of satellites and to build the International Space Station over a period of time. Despite the losses of Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003, NASA’s shuttle program launched 135 missions that were responsible for countless scientific discoveries. In 2004, President Bush outlined his Vision for Space Exploration in which he announced the retirement of the program, and on July 8, 2011, Atlantis became the last shuttle of the program to leave Earth. However, on September 14, 2011, NASA announced the design of a new space launch system that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before.