Sadly the Space Shuttle turned out to be just too dangerous.
The disasters that destroyed the Challenger shuttle on launch in 1986, and the Columbia on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 2003, were both caused by damage to the main orbiter during launch.
It turned out that the shuttle design – which strapped the orbiter to the side of its booster rockets and fuel tank – was much riskier than traditional space vehicles where crew and cargo sit in a capsule on top of the rocket stages.
Since the shuttle was retired in 2011, a variety of unmanned launch vehicles have taken its place for satellite launches, while Russian Soyuz spacecraft take crews to and from the ISS. NASA is currently investigating other possible long-term replacements for manned spaceflights.
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