The Beginning and Stats:
In October 1968 NASA begin studies in Space Shuttle designs. Many initial designs were overly complex and NASA set a baseline design as the DC-3
For details in the Shuttle design process read this great article over at Wikipedia
It was 1972 and the Apollo program would be wrapping up with Apollo 17 in December of that year. The 92nd Congress on May 19th of 1972 announces 3.4 billion budget for NASA which includes $227.9 million to a new Shuttle Program.
Fast forward to April 12th 1981…
It has been six years since NASA put a man in orbit. After the Apollo program and SkyLab, Americans are eager for a manned launch.On that day in 1981 there was a lot of anxiety. This was the first manned maiden launch of a spacecraft NASA had ever attempted. All other spacecraft had gone through extensive unmanned testing but the Shuttle was different. Two brave astronauts climbed aboard the spacecraft that day, John.W. Young and Robert L.Crippen. The anxiety and excitement was palatable that day.
Over the 30 years of Shuttle flights there have been 134 total flights of the Shuttle.(after the Atlantis final flight it will be 135)
|Columbia||28||300d 17h 46m 42s||4808|
|Challenger||10||62d 07h 56m 15s||995|
|Discovery||39||365d 12h 53m 34s||5830|
|Atlantis||32||293d 18h 29m 37s||4648|
|Endeavour||25||296d 02h 18m 35s||4677|
|Total||134||1316d 19h 24m 43s||20958|
In those 134 flights there have been two trajedies. These were dark days for the American public and NASA but with 132 other successful flights the program has been a big success.
Challenger and Columbia disasters:
In Jan 1986 STS-51-L Challenger blew up after launch losing both the vehicle and crew.
On February 1st of 2003 STS-107 Columbia was destroyed during re-entry losing both vehicle and crew.