A History of the Space Shuttle Programs

I think it is important for us to establish a little background to the NASA space shuttle programs before beginning a discussion about their termination.  I will present the shuttle missions chronologically by year and provide mission summaries for some of the missions I believe to be most important.  I suggest reading the information provided by the links to understand the other missions that I don’t describe.  This post is going to be a little lengthy, but bear with me because after reading this we will be a little more educated.

Space shuttle launches began in 1981 and were recently ended this year.  That is 30 years of successful travel in space via space shuttles.

Further Information about Aerospace Engineering

Looking at my last blog post, I have come to realize I did not give you enough information to fully understand aerospace engineering.  I think it is important to fully understand aerospace engineering before we begin to discuss its impact on the space shuttle projects.  I think in this blog post I will present to you a history of aerospace engineering and then list some elements of the field.

History

Sir George Cayley, dated from the last decade of the 18th to the mid 19th century, was a pioneer in aeronautical engineering.  He is credited to be the first to separate the forces of lift and drag.  Some key elements of aerospace engineering were understood by scientists in the 18th century.  Concepts and skills of other branches of engineering and early experiments developed the early knowledge and understanding of aeronautical engineering.  Aeronautical engineering was further developed in the 1910s through the designing of military aircraft during World War I, following the successful flight of the Wright brothers.

Aerospace engineering was defined in Feb 1958, considering the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space in a single realm, and thereby encompassing aircraft (“aero”) and spacecraft (“space”).  In the same year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded in response to the Cold War.  US aerospace engineers launched the first US satellite on 31 Jan 1958 in reaction to the launch of the USSR’s Sputnik launch on 4 OCt 1957.

Elements

  • Fluid mechanics– the study of fluid flow around objects
  • Astrodynamics– the study of orbital mechanics
  • Statics– the study of mechanics on physical bodies in static equilibrium
  • Dynamics– the study of the causes of motion and changes in motion
  • Mathematics- specifically calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra
  • Electrotechnology– the electronics within engineering
  • Propulsion- the energy which moves vehicles through air or space
  • Control engineering– the study of control theory within systems having predictable behaviors
  • Aircraft structures- the design of the physical configuration of a craft
  • Materials science- the study of the properties of matter
  • Solid mechanics– the study of the behavior of solid matter under external actions
  • Aeroelasitcity– the interaction between aerodynamic forces and structural flexibility
  • Avionics– the design and programming of computer systems on aircrafts and spacecrafts
  • Risk and reliability- the study of assessment techniques and the mathematics involved in the quantitative methods
  • Noice control- the study of the mechanics of sound transfer
  • Flight test- the gathering of data during a craft’s flight and the analysis of this data to evaluate flight characteristics

Aerospace Engineering: What is it?

Before we begin our discussion about the space shuttle projects, I think it is a good idea for us to understand what aerospace engineering is as a field of engineering.  So, let’s answer this question: What is aerospace engineering?

As defined in Wikipedia, aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering which utilizes the science of aircraft and spacecraft to design and construct such vehicles.  This field is composed of two primary overlapping fields of engineering:

Aerospace engineering studies/works with the physics of the forces and physical and aerodynamic characteristics of all aircraft and spacecraft.  The aircraft and spacecraft are designed and constructed around these properties.  Because of its complexity, aerospace engineering is conducted by groups of engineers, each group specifying in a certain aspect of the field.  Put quite simply, aerospace engineering is “rocket science”.

Purpose of Blog

I have given much thought to what the purpose of this blog should be.  I myself am interested in really anything involved with the field of aerospace engineering:

  • Current events
  • Advances in technology
  • History
  • NASA

The list can go on, but it is unnecessary to bore you with a long list.  Besides, I think you understand my point; I am interested in any topic within aerospace engineering.  I have come to realize my intended audience will be people within the blogosphere community who share my interests in aerospace engineering and/or the military.  Some may even be aerospace engineers, some may be members of the military, and some may be both.

It was suggested to me by my professor and authors of written text which discuss the success of a blog that I write this blog in a manner which appeals to the needs, wants, and/or expectations of my audience.  I hope to have a successful blog, so I think I will do just that.  The purpose of my blog will be to

  • inform the audience of current news and events within the aerospace engineering field
  • educate the readers on aerospace engineering
  • further discuss anything I find interesting or concerning (for the time being, this will involve a discussion of the termination of the space shuttle programs and what the future may hold as a result)

An Interest Sparks

I think my interest in the military was largely influenced by the family I grew up in.  I come from a family of many service members:

  • My great-grandpa served in the Air Force
  • My grandpa served in the Navy
  • My great-uncle served in the Army
  • My dad served in the Marines
  • My mom served in the Navy

My military interests have leaned towards the Air Force because of my interest in flight and space.  Initially, my dream was to become a pilot or an astronaut, but over the years my eye sight has become increasingly worse, and now my eye sight is far below the minimum requirement.  With these aspirations out of the question, I became interested in engineering, specifically aerospace engineering.  If was not going to be able to fly, I wanted to be a significant part in the advancement of flight in air and space.  I realized as an aerospace engineer I could also contribute more to the military than just the advancement of flight:

  • Defensive technology- satellites
  • Offensive technology- missiles

All these things considered, my life goals are

  1. to become an officer in the US Air Force by graduating from Air Force ROTC
  2. to become an aerospace engineer
  3. to contribute to the US’s technological and military advancement in air and space