We can call it Apollo 50. Are you on board?

behind_apollo_11
Behind Apollo 11, Norman Rockwell 1969 [via NASA]
2018 started on a sad note for space enthusiasts with the passing of John Young. 
Less than a week into the new year, news started to filter through that the veteran astronaut had left us for good – aviation records, 2 Gemini flights, 2 Apollo flights to the Moon, the ninth man to walk on the moon and commander of the first orbital shuttle flight, Young had spanned the initial eras of America’s spaceflight adventures. His achievements back on Earth were no less impressive. He served NASA faithfully for 42 years, staying with the agency whilst many of his Apollo contemporaries chose to move on and serving as Chief of the Astronaut Office for over a decade.

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Blue Shuttle – How the Air Force influenced the STS design process

Enterprise nestling amongst the hills at Vandenberg AFB [IMG: Air Force/TSGT James R. Pearson]
Enterprise nestling amongst the hills at Vandenberg AFB [IMG: Air Force/TSGT James R. Pearson]
Few spacecraft are quite so instantly recognisable as the Shuttle Orbiter. Even in retirement the surviving craft remain iconic, resplendent in their black & white thermal tiles and boasting their trademark double-delta wing.

But the story of how the Orbiter got its familiar shape and the Space Transport System reached it’s eventual configuration is an interesting one reflecting the requirements of the US Air Force more than the needs of NASA. So why did the Air Force have such a big hand in the design and what were their plans for the Shuttle? The story starts in the Apollo era of the late 1960’s.
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