Space Shuttle Timeline

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Overview of two decades of the U.S. shuttle program

by Liz Olson
1980s 1990s 2000s

April 12, 1981

John Young and Robert Crippin pilot the space shuttle Columbia on the maiden flight of the Space Transport System (STS-1).

Nov. 11, 1982

Space shuttle Challenger is launched.

June 18–24, 1983

Sally RideSally Ride becomes the first American woman astronaut on the STS-7 flight of Challenger.

Aug. 30, 1983

The STS-8 Challenger flight introduces Guion S. Bluford, the first African-American astronaut to travel in space.

Feb. 7, 1984

Astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart make the first untethered space walks (with jet backpacks) on this Challenger flight.

Aug. 30, 1984

First flight of space shuttle Discovery.


Aug. 8, 1985

Space ShuttleFirst flight of space shuttle Atlantis.

Oct. 3–7, 1985

Atlantis deploys a classified satellite for the Department of Defense.

Jan. 28, 1986

Challenger explodes 73 seconds into the flight.

Sept. 29–Oct. 3, 1988

The first shuttle flight after the Challenger disaster. Discovery launches a satellite.


May 4, 1989

The Magellan Venus probe is launched from Atlantis, the first U.S. planetary mission in 11 years and the first launched from a shuttle.

Oct. 18, 1989

Atlantis launches the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft.

April 24–29, 1990

Discovery mission launches the Hubble Space Telescope.

May 2–16, 1992

Endeavour’s maiden flight and the first 3-person spacewalk.


Dec. 2–13, 1993

This Endeavour flight successfully repairs the optics on the ailing Hubble Space Telescope.

Feb. 3–11, 1994

Sergei Krikalev becomes the first Russian cosmonaut on a U.S. shuttle mission.

Feb. 3–11, 1995

Eileen Collins becomes the first woman pilot, flying Discovery past the Russian space station Mir.

June 27–July 7, 1995

Space shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian Mir space station.


March 22–31, 1996

U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid is dropped off by Atlantis for a 181-day mission on the Mir, setting a record for a woman in space.

Oct. 29–Nov. 7, 1998

The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, returns to space aboard the Discovery.

Dec. 4–12, 1998

Endeavour makes the first human flight to the International Space Station. The construction mission connects the Zarya and Unity modules.

July 22–27, 1999

Col. Eileen Collins becomes the first woman to command a shuttle mission. Columbia launches the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.


March 8–21, 2001

In the eighth shuttle mission to the International Space Station, Discovery picks up the Expedition One crew (delivered to the station in October by a Russian flight) and drops off Expedition Two.

March 1–12, 2002

Columbia makes the fourth Hubble Space Telescope maintenance/repair/upgrade visit.

Feb. 1, 2003

Crew of Columbia STS-107Fifteen minutes before completing its 28th mission, Columbia breaks up with the loss of all seven crew members.

July 26, 2005

Eileen Collins commands Discovery on the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster. Despite the safety measures, in an incident similar to that which caused the Columbia disaster, some foam insulation broke off the external tank after takeoff. Discovery continues its mission, but NASA grounds any further shuttle flights indefinitely.


July 4, 2006

The Discovery takes off for the International Space Station on the first Fourth of July liftoff, despite some reservations by the chief safety officer and chief engineer concerning the same foam insulation problem that downed Columbia in 2003 and and also occurred on 2005's shuttle flight.

August 8, 2007

Endeavour takes off for the International Space Station carrying the first teacher to ever visit space, Barbara Morgan. Morgan was once the backup to Christa McAuliffe, who was originally slated to become the first teacher in space, but was tragically killed in the Challenger disaster of 1986.

October 23, 2007

Discovery launches into space for a 14-day mission to the International Space Station carrying a new module that will expand the living space in the orbiting labratory.

March 26, 2008

Endeavour safely returns from its 16-day mission to the International Space Station. The Endeavour delivered the first section of the Japenese Kibo laboratory and a Canadian Space Agency robot called Dextre-every international partner has now contributed a major part to the ISS.

February 24, 2011

Discovery launches on its final mission and docks with the International Space Station. The crew consisted of six American astronauts, all of whom had been on prior spaceflights, including Commander Steven Lindsey. The crew joined the long-duration six person crew of Expedition 26, who were already aboard the space station. The mission transported several items to the space station, including the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo, which was left permanently docked to one of the station's ports.

July 21, 2011

When the space shuttle Atlantis rolled into the Kennedy Space Center on July 21, NASA officially retired its Space Shuttle program after 30 years of service.

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