In a recent publication featured in University of Florida Press’ new book, “Picturing the Space Shuttle: The Early Years” several rare NASA images have come to life. It chronicles the shuttle program from 1965 until 1982, ending just a year into the spacecraft’s operational life.
NASA’s first space shuttle was meant to be called Constitution; a nod to the United States Bicentennial that year. But a special write-in campaign by “Star Trek” fans urged President Gerald Ford to change his mind.
Instead, it was then called Enterprise, like the TV show’s starship. Hence, the reason the “Star Trek” cast and crew, including Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Gene Roddenberry, presence among the crowd at the shuttle’s September 1976 unveiling.
John Bisney’s book, which he co-authored with J.L. Pickering, gives a unique view into the early development of the shuttle, the world’s first reusable spacecraft, with several outlandish sketches and drawings of alternative designs; some of which still look exceptionally futuristic.
Bisney said, “Most of the shuttle books that are available try to do too much and cover the entire program. And when you have 135 flights over 30 years, that’s difficult to condense into one book. Some of the early concepts involved having the booster rocket also come back and land like an airplane, automatically.” Bisney said.
Several of these photos have come from Pickering’s personal archive, one of the world’s largest private collections of manned spaceflight images.
“I give (Pickering) all the credit, and yes, he did have a lot to sort through,” Bisney said. “But one of our trademarks is to concentrate on unusual, rarely seen or unpublished images. If you go to the library and pull a book on the shuttle off the shelf, you typically see the same few hundred pictures in every book. And that’s understandable because they are great pictures. But there’s a lot more to show you,” he added.