REALSPACE: So how did the shuttles get their names?

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I'll be the first to admit this is fairly trivial, but since we no longer have a manned space program, and we don't have any plans for one, and we're grounded for at least a decade, and the Russians and Chinese have moved ahead of us in the space race, what else have we got to do but talk about trivia?

Something we've never really talked about is how the Shuttles got their names. I mean, we all know they're named after seagoing exploratory vessels, (Somewhat pretentiously since the shuttles clearly aren't exploring, nor were they intended to), but how did they end up with that convention?

Well, back in 1978 the Shuttle system associate administrator John Yardley came up with a list of potential names "Having significant relationship to heritage of the United States or the Shuttle' mission of exploration." Here's his list in descending order of preference:

Constitution, Independence, America, Constellation, Enterprise, Discoverer, Endeavour, Liberty, Freedom, Eagle, Kitty Hawk, Pathfinder, Adventurer, Prospector, and Peace.

Why so many names? Well, partially to give NASA and Congress a bunch to pick from, but remember: There was originally supposed to be a fleet of *twelve* shuttles. The four we ended up getting were the result of budget cuts.

Anyway, so the list wasn't particularly popular. I've always maintained that "Enterprise" is just gay, and embarasingly so: 'Hey, let's name a four billion dollar spacecraft after a television show aimed at teenage boys!' "Eagle" is a bad name since it would overshadow the Apollo 11 LEM, and that's a bad thing. 'Peace' is entirely too hippie. Really the only one I like is "Pathfinder." Thus, in late '78, NASA drew up a comittee to come up with a 'naming stragegy.'

They came up with several themes: Bright Stars; Constellations; American aviation history; American history; Exploratory vessels (Which is the one they ultimately chose);
and Indian tribes (The most interesting of the bunch, and I kind of wish they'd gone with that one as it's the least predictable). This was whittled down to just three groups: Exploratory Vessels, American History ("Enterprise" was on both these lists because there were Trekies on the board), and Stars and Constellations.

The Constelaltions were: Orion, Arcturus, Polaris, Pegasus, Canopus, Capella, Alpha Centauri. The "Enterprise" had already been named as it was already in drop-testing at this point. While it ended up being just a glider, it was originally intended to be retrofitted and put into service as an actual shuttle. This never happened for budgetary reasons (And the thing was just way too heavy), but people were quick to point out that "Enterprise" didn't really fit the constellation theme, and since "Polaris" was already in use with the Navy's ICBM program, it was felt that name sent a bad impression, and these two considerations led to that whole scheme being dropped.

After the Challenger Disaster, in memory of Christa MacAulife, there was a nationwide competition for school kids to come up with names for the eventual replacement shuttle: Adventure, Calypso, Catham, Deepstar, Desire, Dove, Endeavour, Godspeed, Hokule 'a, Horizon, Nautilus, North Star, Pathfinder, Phoenix, Resolution, Trieste, Victoria, and Victory. Those were the finalists. Additional serious contenders that didn't make the cut: Blake, Endurance, Griffin, Gulf Stream, Investigator, Meteor, Polar Star, Rising Star, and Royal Tern.

President George Bush the First ultimately chose "Endeavour" from the list (Both the American and British spellings of "Endeavor" were suggested, but he went with the British one)

"Nautilus" and "Trieste" are both submarines, which is an odd choice for a spacecraft, but, hey, points for nonlinear thinking. "Dove" and "Rising Star" are both names of SF space ships ("Journey to the Far Side of the Sun" and "Battlestar Galactica"), though that's probably coincidental, as both were fairly obscure in '88. I personally think I'd like to avoid "Meteor, Gulf Stream, Phoenix, and Deepstar" based soley on how and where the Challenger ended up. "Calypso" isn't bad, though perhaps a bit too froggy for the time. "Investigator" and "Royal Tern" are both just dumb. Really, of the whole list, I think I still prefer "Pathfinder" the best. "Horizon" and "North Star" aren't bad, though.

So how 'bout you? If "Shuttle II" were going into service tomorrow, and they wanted you to come up with a name scheme and some names, what would you come up with? And why?

(Most of this information came from "Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System" by Dennis R. Jenkins, which is *THE* authoritative source for all things relating to the development, design, construction, and operation of the shuttle program. It's well worth a look if you're at all interested. If it ain't in this book, it's not worth knowing)

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