The Space Shuttle was a partially reusable low Earth orbital spacecraft system that was operated from 1981 to 2011 by the U. S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of the Space Shuttle program. Its official program name was Space Transportation System (STS), taken from a 1969 plan for a system of reusable spacecraft of which it was the only item funded for development. The first of four orbital test flights occurred in 1981, leading to operational flights beginning in 1982. In addition to the prototype whose completion was cancelled, five complete Shuttle systems were built and used on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011, launched from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Operational missions launched numerous satellites, interplanetary probes, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST); conducted science experiments in orbit; and participated in construction and servicing of the International Space Station. The Shuttle fleet’s total mission time was 1322 days, 19 hours, 21 minutes and 23 seconds.
Dr. Porco believes that the icy moon, with its underground liquid sea of water, organics, as well as an energy source, may potentially host life similar to that found in analogous environments on Earth. The March 2012 images of Cassini's "tiger stripes" revealed that these cracks widen and narrow, as was suspected from pictures taken previously. The fissures also change over time more frequently than was originally thought. The two opposite sides of the fissures move laterally relative to one another. This is analogous to the way two banks of the San Andreas Fault can move forward and back, as well as in opposite directions. The greatest slipping and sliding happens when Enceladus is closest to Saturn--as scientists expected. The precise chemical composition of these very alien lakes and seas remained unknown until 2014, when Cassini's radar instrument detected Ligeia Mare, now known to be Titan's second-largest hydrocarbon-filled lake. Ligeia Mare is brimming with an abundance of sloshing methane, and this enormous liquid reservoir is approximately the same size as two of Earth's Great Lakes combined--Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Many planetary scientists think that the seabed of Ligeia Mare may be blanketed with a thick layer of sludge that is composed of organic-rich compounds. These icy moon-worlds are the next important step in the scientific quest for the Holy Grail of life beyond our own planet. It is a strange era in human history. Astronomers have collected large amounts of data revealing bewitching clues that habitable ocean moon-worlds may be out there, within the family of our very own Star. Humanity is poised at the beginning of a new era. Sophisticated new technology might very soon answer the profound, and very ancient question, "Are we alone?"