To the Stars: Utah and the Space Shuttle

Original Airdate: 
July 2011

In July 2011, the nation will close the chapter of space exploration tied with the Space Shuttle program. While the entire nation has felt pride in its achievements and loss in its tragedies, few states have had the close attachment to the program that Utah has had. From the days when the Space Shuttle was a blueprint on a drafting board to the final flight, people, programs and locations in Utah have figured significantly in the Shuttle program. As the program comes to an end after 30 years, KUED offers a half-hour retrospective of Utah's amazing connection, To the Stars: Utah and the Space Shuttle."

The Brigham City-based Morton Thiokol Corporation was intimately involved in the development of the solid rocket booster that propelled the shuttle through its three-decade history. The corporation, currently known as the ATA Launch Systems Group, was also the center of a national dialogue following the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

In the wake of the Challenger disaster, former University of Utah President James C. Fletcher, who previously had served at the head of NASA, was recalled to service by President Ronald Reagan. Fletcher's charge was to restore public confidence in a space program deeply shaken by loss of life.

But of most lasting memory for many Utahns was the space journey of U.S. Senator Jake Garn in 1985. The first sitting member of Congress to go into space, Garn participated as a full member of the crew of Shuttle Flight STS-51-D. Garn traveled over 2.5 million miles as he orbited the earth more than 100 times, logging more than 150 hours in space. He also set a new standard for space sickness, which since his flight has been known as "1-Garn" for the highest possible level of illness. In honor of his service, the mission simulating and training faculty of NASA was named for Garn.

Utah's role in the Shuttle program extends to remarkable levels of scientific experimentation that range from astrophysics to biomedical research. In the end, Utah's role in the space shuttle program is a reflection of the very motto of NASA, Per Aspera ad Astra, "Through Hardships to the Stars." Reported by Ken Verdoia, produced and directed by Al Cutler, the KUED production draws on 30 years of KUED archives documenting Utah's amazing connection to the Space Shuttle program.

"When we reviewed our archives, we were truly impressed to find the history of the Space Shuttle program so thoroughly documented over the past 30 years," says Verdoia, who also serves as the station's director of production. "It's a testimony to KUED, recognizing the importance of the space program to the nation and to Utah."

30 minutes