The Enterprise was NASA's space shuttle prototype. Although it never left orbit, Enterprise was the first re-usable "space plane."
Photograph courtesy NASA

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  • On September 17, 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled its first space shuttle, Enterprise, at a ceremony in Palmdale, California. Scientists and engineers had been developing a re-usable “space plane” design for more than a decade. The shuttle combined features of rockets, traditional spacecraft, and aircraft. Due to changes in the shuttle’s structural design, Enterprise (named after the fictional Star Trek starship) never exited the Earth’s atmosphere.

    After Enterprise’s successful atmospheric tests, NASA built five more space shuttles that went on to fly all the way into space: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    decade Noun

    10 years.

    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    NASA Noun

    (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

    spacecraft Noun

    vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.

    space shuttle Noun

    vehicle used to transport astronauts and instruments to and from Earth.