Skylab space station
The Skylab space station in Earth orbit (NASA)

The Space Shuttle Program

In 1973, NASA sends its first space station, Skylab, into orbit. But Skylab is abandoned in 1974. It costs too much to keep it supplied. NASA needs a cheaper way to get crews and supplies to and from space. So, they design the Space Transportation System (STS) with reusable boosters for launch and a shuttle that lands like an airplane.

Astronauts with new skills are needed for the shuttle program. NASA looks beyond military pilots to scientists. The agency is aware that Americans are demanding equal rights for minorities and women. The class of astronauts NASA selects in 1978 includes two African-American men, a man of Asian descent, and six women. One of these astronauts is Sally K. Ride.