Part of a package I received from NASA in the 1980s. Pictured: a synopsis of the early shuttle missions, and a space shuttle schematic poster. Photo by Emily Carney.
Given that the final space shuttle launch (Atlantis, STS-135) is scheduled on July 8th, I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic lately about the halcyon days of the space shuttle program from 1981 to 1985. When I was a tiny space nerd in the early 1980s, I sent a fairly rapturous letter to NASA asking raving about how awesome I thought the space program was, how I wanted to be an astronaut, etc. etc. It probably was no different in content from any other letter from a typical spaceflight-obsessed kid. In response, they quite generously sent me a package crammed full of space shuttle related documents and launch vehicle schematics. I still have all of this material at present time; a small sample is pictured above.
Not pictured here is a pretty curious looking enclosure that I probably didn’t look at as a child, because it wasn’t as fascinating to me yet as previous accomplishments like Apollo, Skylab, and the shuttle, and also it seemed somewhat impossible that such a thing could exist at the time (the mid-1980s). It was a schematic and description by McDonnell Douglas of a space station which the shuttle would be able to dock with. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had been looking at an early prototype of the International Space Station, and I didn’t even know it, or appreciate it. Unsurprisingly, NASA would once again make the seemingly impossible happen, and we got our fortress in space.
Mid-1980s artist’s rendering of proposed “Space Station Freedom,” an early prototype of the International Space Station. Image by McDonnell Douglas and NASA.
Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.
Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.