JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — As the space shuttle program faces retirement, NASA is releasing a book that details its contributions.
"Wings in Orbit" examines the scientific and engineering accomplishments that emerged from the shuttle fleet as told by the scientists, engineers and astronauts who dedicated their careers to the program, Helen Lane, the book’s editor-in-chief, said.
Lane has worked at the Johnson Space Center since 1989 and is the chief scientist for biological sciences and applications.
The 552-page coffee table book features photos and technical renderings and contains stand-alone chapters featuring contributions from 320 scientists, professors and NASA civil servants who dedicated their lives to the program.
"The book looks at what comes from the shuttle program that will endure — what is it that will live on," Lane said.
One of the program’s chief successes was the transportation of parts for the International Space Station, which will continue as a research lab after the shuttle is in a museum, Lane said.
Other feats include the fleet’s reusability, the spacecraft’s ability to leave and enter the Earth’s atmosphere and the main engines’ liquid fueling capabilities.
The book addresses lessons the space agency learned from the Challenger and Columbia tragedies.
"The guiding principle was to be technically correct and very honest," she said. "The accidents are a theme through the book and were obviously a huge low point for the program. This shows how we rectified and recovered."
Former shuttle program manager Wayne Hale wrote the book’s introduction and was executive editor.
Notable figures during the program’s existence — including President George H.W. Bush and Norman Augustine, chairman of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee — wrote essays on the future of human space flight.
"Not only is this book informative and beautifully done, it captures the passion of those who devoted their energies to the more than three decades of the shuttle program," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said. "It recognizes and celebrates what NASA has accomplished using the shuttle system."
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