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This Day in History - 9/17/76: First Reusable Space Shuttle Revealed


On this day in 1976, NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise, the first reusable space craft.

The space shuttle Enterprise makes the final leg of its journey to its new Manhattan home on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in New York. The U.S. space agency, NASA, ended its shuttle program last year. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

On this day in 1976, NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise, the first reusable space craft.

It's a hybrid craft, a cross between a rocket ship and an airplane and is capable of carrying weather and communication satellites into orbit and dropping them off in space. There is also room to carry gear for manned space stations as well as lab equipment.

The most important feature of the Enterprise is that it's reusable: it can simply glide back to earth (landing at a speed of 215 mph) and be used again.

Throughout 1977 NASA conducted a series of approach and landing tests with Enterprise to test the aerodynamic stability of the craft, as well as the astronauts' ability to control the craft.

For these tests, Enterprise was attached to a Boeing 747 for take off and then released to glide above the California desert.
NASA held an unveiling ceremony in Palmdale, California in order to entice Congress to spend more on the space shuttle program, focusing on the reusable feature of the craft. The development of the Enterprise is estimated at $7 billion.

The shuttle is now stationed at the Dulles Airport annex of the National Air and Space Museum.

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