Space: The Once and Future Shuttle

After Columbia's successful flight, new tests and new dreams

When veteran Astronaut Tom Mattingly, 46, piloted the space shuttle Columbia to a textbook landing in the California desert last week, it was more than a star-spangled finale to a stunningly successful mission. And not just because of the enthusiastic presence of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and half a million other Fourth of July revelers. With Columbia 's fourth and last test flight, NASA declared its own independence from such costly and inefficient vehicles as the Apollo moonships that can make only one trip. Pronouncing...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!