On April 12th 1961 Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, became the first man into space, completing an 108 minute orbital flight before safely ejecting and parachuting down to the ground, from the Vostok 1 Rocket which had re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. An incredible achievement for all involved. So the Soviets had won the space race, but only just. Less than a month later American Astronaut Alan Shepard followed suit on May 5th, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft.
It was not until 1975 that the USA and Russia joined forces with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The aim was to test the compatibility of docking systems between the Soviet and American spacecraft. This project paved the way for future collaborative manned missions down the line.
Fast forward 20 years: It is April 12th 1981 and NASA launches the first of its Space Shuttle fleet, Space Shuttle Columbia. Its purpose was to act as an orbital spacecraft, capable of atmospheric re-entry, which was partially reusable with modular add-ons and rocket launch capacity. Columbia was the first Space Shuttle but certainly not the last. Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour all took their turn in a 30 year history of missions to repair and recover satellites, carry humans into space and act as a base for the construction of the largest structure in space: The International Space Station. The final Shuttle mission took place on 21st July 2011 when Atlantis returned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Florida.
It seems only fitting that our latest t-shirt design honouring NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet should be published on April 12th. Wear our Space Shuttle T-shirt in admiration of the remarkably successful series of space exploring missions carried out by NASA.