The space shuttle program spanned thirty years, from its first flight in 1981 till the final voyage on July 8, 2011. I was only two years old when Columbia carried out mission STS-1, so it's one of those things that was always with me -- until it wasn't. I can't help but draw comparisons to my father's presence in my life, as he died just four months before the final Atlantis mission.
With this image, we travel back to 1972, when the shuttle was just one plan for America's orbital future. And me? I hadn't been born yet. Here's the original sell:
And there you have it. Phase A contract design studies for the shuttle kicked off in the late 1960s, so the roots go back further than you might think. In the end, the program ran 135 missions.