By Claxton Graham
Here’s an odd piece of trivia to consider. Since 1961, when Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space, there has only been one president who did not see a space mission on his watch. Jimmy Carter’s single term in office, from 1977 to 1981, came between two different eras of manned space exploration.
The last flight before Carter took office was the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission in July, 1975 – ironically, the only manned space flight to occur during Gerald Ford’s time as president. Apollo-Soyuz marked the last flight of the spacecraft that took man to the Moon nine times between December, 1968 and December, 1972 (with six of those missions resulting in lunar landings), and ferried three different crews to Skylab in 1973. The first flight of the Space Shuttle era, which was originally scheduled for March, 1979, was delayed until April, 1981, nearly three months after Ronald Reagan took over. Development of Shuttle, which began under Richard Nixon, continued during Carter’s administration. That included a series of approach-and-landing and launch facilities checkout exercises with the test orbiter Enterprise.by