|any of a series of reusable US space vehicles (Columbia (exploded 2003), Challenger (exploded 1986), Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour) that can be launched into earth orbit transporting astronauts and equipment for a period of observation, research, etc, before re-entry and an unpowered landing on a runway; the first operational flight occurred in 1982|
A vehicle built by NASA that is capable of taking off from Earth, carrying a crew and a cargo into space, and returning to Earth to be used again. It is used primarily to transport a crew to an orbiting space station and to deploy and retrieve satellites.
Note: The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986. All seven crew members died in the accident.