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September 17, 1976: entire world discovers Space Shuttle

The very first spacecraft was the Enterprise

Today's date is one of the most important in history of space flights. On September 17, 1976, exactly 44 years ago, Space Shuttle was presented to the public for the very first time. NASA proudly announced what was a real revolution for this sector, the first of a series of shuttles that was renamed for the occasion "Enterprise". Construction began two years earlier, with the spacecraft initially designed to be readjusted for orbital flight. In the final moments of manufacturing it was realized that it was possible to modify the wings and fuselage reaching the final result that everyone has known and knows. It was the first vehicle of this type equipped with wings and able to enter orbit, starting as a rocket and landing on its return like a real plane.

Among its main advantages there was also that of being able to transport satellites and scientific instruments in large quantities in space. The presentation ceremony of September 17, 1976 was organized in California, to be precise in Palmdale; total cost of the project was 10 billion dollars, then in the following year the first "free flight" was reached after the lifting of the "Enterprise" from a B-747 plane. "Enterprise" never arrived in space but it was essential for testing and experiments; the rest of the fleet consisted in "Challenger", "Columbia", "Discovery", "Endeavor" and "Atlantis" shuttles. Two tragic events of the Space Shuttle are linked to "Challenger" and "Columbia": first accident dates back to 1986, while the second to 2003. History of spacecraft continued until 2011 before the inevitable retirement.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency
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