Space Shuttle Diaries

Exhilaration, fear, surprise, and fun: spaceflight, according to the astronauts.

 In a forthcoming book on the space shuttle, astronauts tell it like it really is.

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight, the editors of Air & Space wrote almost all of the 260-plus people who have flown on the shuttle since 1981 to ask for their stories. Nearly a third of them -- current and former astronauts alike -- complied. The resulting Smithsonian book, Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years, will be published by Dorling Kindersley this spring.

Lavishly Illustrated

One of the hallmarks of Air&Space has been its outstanding photography. Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years continues this tradition with lavish use of the most evocative photographs of the Shuttle experience we could find.

Get your own copy of Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years

You can be among the very first to own a copy of Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years by going to and preordering a copy now!

An unprecedented look at the Space Shuttle experience, as told by the astronauts themselves. The astronauts' unprecedented and candid responses reveal the drama of the Shuttle experience, from launch to landing, like no other book has to date. More than 300 stunning pictures selected from deep in the NASA archives, most have never been published. Personal anecdotes drawn from written submissions or original interviews with 77 Shuttle astronauts. Historical section highlights in words and pictures the greatest accomplishments of the Shuttle's first two decades. Complete with brief descriptions of all 103 flights from April 1981 to April 2001, Space Shuttle includes a foreword written by astronaut Jim Lovell, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the film Apollo 13.

Space Shuttle Online Resources

There's only so much you can fit in even a 320-page book. So here is a short but helpful (we hope) list of additional reading and viewing for Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years:


    Bios for each of the astronauts who contributed stories can be found on NASA's official biography page. The agency also keeps a list of astronauts who've flown on the shuttle in Acrobat (PDF) format, although it may not be completely up to date.


    The mother lode of information about the shuttle is NASA's Human Spaceflight website, which includes everything from photographs to historical reference material to digital sound files of the crew's wake-up calls in orbit.

    An excellent and detailed technical reference for shuttle orbiter systems can be found at the Shuttlepresskit site run by the companies that build and launch the vehicles. You can download the PDF document as individual chapters, or as a single mammoth 20 megabyte file.


 Want to read more about the payloads carried on STS-58 or need to know the exact landing weight of STS-27? Go to NASA's shuttle mission index, which has exhaustive information for every mission flown to date. Includes links to pictures, sounds, pre-launch press kits, and more.

Following Shuttle Missions

 Before the next launch, get yourself a press kit for the flight so you can follow the action with a detailed timeline and summaries of all planned activities in hand. Then tune in to webcasts of NASA TV at Yahoo!, shuttle operator United Space Alliance, or NASA's own site to watch the show online. 

Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years
In a rare twilight launch the Shuttle departs for orbit. Photo: NASA