NASA Space Shuttle Publications, Early 1980s: Relics Of A Not-So-Distant Past

Part of a package I received from NASA in the 1980s. Pictured: a synopsis of the early shuttle missions, and a space shuttle schematic poster. Photo by Emily Carney.
Given that the final space shuttle launch (Atlantis, STS-135) is scheduled on July 8th, I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic lately about the halcyon days of the space shuttle program from 1981 to 1985. When I was a tiny space nerd in the early 1980s, I sent a fairly rapturous letter to NASA asking raving about how awesome I thought the space program was, how I wanted to be an astronaut, etc. etc. It probably was no different in content from any other letter from a typical spaceflight-obsessed kid. In response, they quite generously sent me a package crammed full of space shuttle related documents and launch vehicle schematics. I still have all of this material at present time; a small sample is pictured above. 
Not pictured here is a pretty curious looking enclosure that I probably didn’t look at as a child, because it wasn’t as fascinating to me yet as previous accomplishments like Apollo, Skylab, and the shuttle, and also it seemed somewhat impossible that such a thing could exist at the time (the mid-1980s). It was a schematic and description by McDonnell Douglas of a space station which the shuttle would be able to dock with. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had been looking at an early prototype of the International Space Station, and I didn’t even know it, or appreciate it. Unsurprisingly, NASA would once again make the seemingly impossible happen, and we got our fortress in space. 

Mid-1980s artist’s rendering of proposed “Space Station Freedom,” an early prototype of the International Space Station. Image by McDonnell Douglas and NASA. 

Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.

Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.


Picture of Emily Carney

Emily Carney

Leave a Comment

future 1

Don't Miss a Beat!

Be the first to know when new articles are posted!

Follow Us On Social Media


Give The Gift Of Space: Membership For Friends and Family

Book Review


ISDC 2024:

International Space Development Conference May 23rd-26th, 2024


Image of Kalpana One space settlement courtesy Bryan Versteeg, $32,000 in Cash Awards Given for Best Space-Related Business Plans — Deadline March 1, 2024

Category: Nonfiction Reviewed by: John J. Vester Title: Nuclear Rockets: To the Moon and Mars Author: Manfred “Dutch” von Ehrenfried Format: Paperback/Kindle Pages: 270 Publisher:

Partially Successful Flight Reached Space and Demonstrated New “Hot Staging” System The National Space Society congratulates SpaceX on the second test of its Starship/Super Heavy

Ad Astra, the NSS quarterly print, digital, and audio magazine, has won a 2023 MARCOM Gold Award. The awards are given yearly for “Excellence in

By Jennifer Muntz, NSS Member Coordinator On October 10th, an inspiring breakfast event took flight at the Center for Space Education at the Kennedy Space

By Grant Henriksen NSS Policy Committee Benefit sharing is a concept that refers to the distribution of benefits derived from the exploration and use of

People residing and working in space, space settlements, or on long-duration space flights will need to produce infrastructures and food to maintain healthy lifestyles. The

Image: Artist’s concept of the Blue Moon lander. Credit: Blue Origin. Second Human Landing System Contract Encourages Competition and Innovation The National Space Society congratulates