Nighttime View of a Space Shuttle Launch from the Kennedy Space Center


This photograph shows a launch of the Space Shuttle, the world’s first reusable spacecraft, from the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) developed the shuttle to lower the costs of travel into space and to support the construction of the International Space Station and other space missions. The first shuttle, the Columbia, lifted off on April 12, 1981. Four other shuttles--Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour–were built over the life of the program. The Challenger and the Columbia both were destroyed in catastrophic accidents that claimed the lives of 14 astronauts. The Kennedy Space Center has served as NASA’s main launch and landing facility for the shuttles, and has been the staging ground for the earliest U.S. manned space flights, the Apollo moon missions, and numerous national and international satellite launches. In 2010, NASA ended the shuttle program and retired the three remaining shuttles.

Last updated: September 26, 2012