Sunday, July 12, 2015
"The Space Shuttle": a cute idea in 1969
The NASA Kennedy Space Center offers a short film documenting the history of the “shuttle” program, (call the film simply “The Space Shuttle”), at its Atlantis exhibit hall (which also offers a simulation of what a blast-off feels like – indeed, acceleration (either direct or angular) can greatly increase the perception of G-forces and gravity – an idea that is important for artificial gravity in science fiction movies, even my own – an idea I’ll take up later).
The film starts in April 1969, with an enactment of a meeting at NASA called by a female engineer – to develop something that seems mysterious. It will have nothing directly to do with man’s walking on the Moon in three more months. The idea is a reusable (or at least partially reusable) orbital vehicle.
The device will need another vehicle for being transported around, and the idea comes up to put it piggyback on a 747.
Wikipedia gives the fleet history: Enterprise, Columbia, Discovery, Challenger and finally Atlantis (the first to launch an interplanetary probe). The Challenger would experience a catastrophe in January 1986, which I remember hearing about at work. The first post-Challenger launch would be on a Discovery.
NASA has a longer documentary on YouTube, narrated by William Shatner, from which the museum film is extracted.