April 12-14, 1981: The space shuttle Columbia is launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, to begin the first shuttle mission. Its primary aims were to accomplish a safe ascent into orbit, check all flight systems and carry out a safe landing. After landing it was found that a take-off pressure wave had displaced 16 heat shield tiles and damaged 148 others.
Nov. 12, 1981: Columbia undertook the second shuttle mission, shortened from five to three days due to fuel cell failure, after several launch delays.
1982-85: Shuttles make 20 trips into orbit and back.
June 18-24,1983: First US woman astronaut, Sally Ride, takes part in Nasa’s seventh shuttle mission, on board Challenger.
Jan. 28, 1986: Challenger explodes 72 seconds after take-off, killing the seven crew. Blast caused by a leak of liquid hydrogen. Shuttle flights were halted while extensive investigation into accident and assessment of shuttle programme were conducted.
Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 1988: Discovery marks resumption of flights after 1986 disaster.
May 4-8, 1989: Atlantis releases payload, the Magellan spacecraft, for radar mapping of Venus.
April 24-29,1990: Discovery deploys Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.
June 27-July 7, 1995: Atlantis marks the 100th US human space launch with first docking between shuttle and Russian Mir space station. Dockings with Mir continue through 1996, 1997 until February 1998.
Dec. 4-15, 1998: Endeavour makes the first International Space Station (ISS) flight to attach the first two modules of the ISS. Similar flights continue through 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Nov-Dec, 2002: Endeavour exchanges the ISS’ fifth and sixth mission crews in a 14-day trip. It marks its 19th flight.
Feb. 1, 2003: Columbia, the 113th shuttle mission, carrying Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, breaks up over Texas with seven astronauts on board after 16 days in orbit.