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Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce Aviation Dollars
2011 Aviation DollarSpace Shuttle

Not since the Wright brothers launched their canvas-and-wood flying machine from the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, has an aircraft had as profound an impact on mankind as the Space Shuttle orbiter: a reusable vehicle that launched as a rocket, steered using thrusters as a spacecraft and returned to a runway landing as a glider. This was the world's first spaceplane and it would forever change our understanding of the world and our place in it.

About the same size and weight as a DC-9 aircraft, the orbiter has been described as the 18-wheeler of the space program, the only vehicle capable of carrying payloads the size of the International Space Station's main modules into low Earth orbit.

The Shuttle placed the Chandra X-ray Observatory into orbit, and not only launched the Hubble Space Telescope, but made it possible for astronauts to later revisit the satellite and focus Hubble so perfectly that we've since had to re-think our entire understanding of the universe.

Orbiters have launched other spacecraft as well, including the Magellan Venus probe and the Galileo Jupiter probe, and can also successfully retrieve and return orbiting satellites to Earth, with the help of Canada's own revolutionary space hardware 'Canadarm'.

But more than delivering hardware, Space Shuttle orbiters have united the nations of Earth in a common goal and vision, transporting crews to the Russian space station Mir, and providing opportunities for many countries to launch their own astronauts for the first time, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

After 30 years and more than 100 missions in space, the entire fleet of orbiters retires from active service later this year. There can be no more appropriate aircraft to celebrate the triumph of mankind's quest for knowledge and to grace our 30th Aviation Dollar than NASA's Space Shuttle orbiter.