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Old 02-04-2006, 01:38 PM
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Since the idea of a reusable rocket-plane was first seriously-studied by Eugen Sänger in the 1930s, the concept has exerted strong influence on the development of human spaceflight. In the United States, detailed proposals for a reusable space vehicle were developed as early as the 1950s, and several projects reached the design and test stage in the 1960s.

Initially, the Space Shuttle was envisioned as a fully reusable, commercial spaceplane. During the early 1970s, however, its development faced considerable obstacles, budgetary shortfalls, some congressional opposition, increasing public apathy, and design difficulties. What emerged was a smaller, semi-reusable vehicle, advertised as an economical and efficient means of space transport.

Whether the Shuttle has fulfilled these goals is a topic of some controversy. Even so, the Space Shuttle has been the cornerstone of the U.S. space program, and the driving force behind much of the budget and programs of NASA for over two decades.

America's Space Shuttle orbiters are named after pioneering sea vessels which established new frontiers in research and exploration. NASA delved through the history books to find ships that achieved historical significance through discoveries about the world's oceans or the Earth itself. Another important criterion in the selection process was consideration for the international nature of the Space Shuttle program. The name of NASA's newest orbiter, Endeavour, was selected from names submitted by school children around the world.
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