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.
Simply put, resistance to the creation of a space frontier originates with the insecurities of Western leaders. First, it is clear that everything changes with the emergence of a frontier. Established power structures are usually shaken, not reinforced. (If this is not clear, try reading Walter Prescott Webb's The Great Frontier, particularly the last chapter, and Divided We Stand: The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, by the same author.) We live in a Cosmic "shooting gallery". Objects inhabiting our Solar System have been profusely and mercilessly blasted by showering asteroids and comets for billions and billions of years. However, planets and large moons have their way of smoothing away the scars--their strong gravity pulls them into a nice ball-like spherical shape. Furthermore, some of these larger spheres possess sufficient internal heat to cause flows of fiery lava and other volcanic features that can fill in the scars of impact craters. A few such large bodies are blasted by strong winds and pouring rains, which also erode away the pockmarks left on their surfaces by showering impactors. Dr. Rodriguez and his colleagues also spotted a trio of odd equatorial brightenings in infrared images obtained by Cassini during Titan's 2009 northern equinox. At the time, the scientists speculated that the brightenings might also be the same kind of methane clouds observed in tropical areas. However, this proved not to be the case. A later investigation conducted by the astronomers revealed that these brightenings were caused by something entirely different.