Space Clipper, Pegasus, Starlighter, Space Shuttle
Forty years ago today, President Richard Nixon announced the creation of the Space Shuttle program. It was January 5, 1972 in San Clemente, California. Standing with NASA Administrator James E. Fletcher, the President signed an Executive Act and said, “This system will center on a space vehicle that can shuttle repeatedly from Earth to orbit and back.”
“Space Shuttle.” It’s hard to imagine a different name, right? Not so for Peter Flanigan, Assistant to President Nixon. Just one day before the President publicly announced NASA’s latest and greatest, there was still debate over the official name for the program. This White House memo to the President makes a pretty good case that:
The term “shuttle” has a connotation of second class travel and lacks excitement…
Of course, Space Shuttle ultimately made the final cut, but it’s fun to think of the Pegasus program that almost was.
White House Memo; Peter Flanigan to President Nixon, January 4, 1972. Photo of President Nixon and NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher looking at a Space Shuttle model on the day of the program announcement, January 5, 1972. San Clemente, CA. ID #WHPO-8173-07.
(Applause to the Archivists at the Nixon Library for finding this “almost happened” memo!)
What’s your favorite alternative name for the Space Shuttle?