Abort to Orbit


ACLS Fellowship Program


History of Science

Named Award

ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow named award


In 1972, the Nixon administration chose the space shuttle to be the United States’ next achievement in space because it was the least objectionable option of those considered. The orbital spaceplane satisfied diverse constituencies—from scientists to military leaders—who saw in the shuttle’s huge, empty cargo bay a vessel to contain their diverse ambitions. To its advocates, the shuttle would be the first step in the democratization of space travel; for those women and men who flew it, though, the shuttle would prove both a blessing and a curse. This project seeks to understand the legacy of this new space transportation infrastructure, and the transformation of US space labor during the space shuttle era. The story of NASA’s space shuttle is a complex narrative of the increasing globalization of big-budget technoscience and the commodification of space travel, offering powerful lessons for the future of space exploration.