For many aviation and aerospace enthusiasts, July 2011 will always be remembered as a bittersweet month in the history of Space Exploration. After a thirty year operational life, the iconic Space Shuttle program ended on July 21, 2011 as mission STS-135 concluded and the Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis successfully landed at Kennedy Space Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officially retired the program. Our featured tattoo on Tattoos In Flight today of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery at launch with its two powerful Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and External Tank attached, is posted in honor of the men and women who built, maintained, crewed and even gave their life for America’s Shuttle program.
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Beginning with the maiden launch of the Orbiter Columbia on April 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle program was not only one of the most important advancements in Space Exploration Vehicles as the first reusable vehicle ever used, but was also the transport for some of the most important scientific payloads carried into orbit. Some of these payloads included the Ulysses and Galileo spacecraft for orbital exploration of the planet Jupiter and its satellite moons, the Magellan spacecraft for orbital exploration of Venus, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and the majority of the components to construct the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit. The contributions made by the Shuttle program to science were truly extraordinary, but these advancements unfortunately came with a cost. The world paused in shock upon witnessing the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its seven crewmembers moments after launch on January 28, 1986 and again on February 1, 2003 when communication was lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia during re-entry followed shortly after by eyewitness reports, video and images of the breakup and explosion of the orbiter fatally claiming its seven crewmembers over the Southcentral United States. Though both remain a solemn reminder of the inherent risk involved in the exploration of new frontiers in space and science, the lessons learned from them and the 133 successful missions of the Space Shuttle program will continue to help shape the future of National, International and commercial space exploration for decades to come.
Now retired, the surviving Space Shuttle Orbiters have been committed for display at museums around the United States. Atlantis will be placed on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Discovery will be displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum at Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C.; Endeavour will be displayed on the West Coast at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA; and Enterprise, the atmospheric test orbiter currently on display the Udvar-Hazy Center, will be moved to New York City for display at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.
And for some people, a more permanent and personal tribute to the Space Shuttle is in order… like the tattoo featured in this post. The vibrant and colorful tattoo of the Discovery at launch was created by talented tattoo artist Justin Leifeste, currently tattooing at Graphic Images Tattoo in West Haven, CT.
Please click on the image below for a larger image.
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