How the Space Shuttles Got Their Names

Written by: developer

  • Columbia (OV-102) was named after a sailing frigate launched in 1836. It was one of the first Navy ships to circumnavigate the globe. The name also was used for the Apollo 11 command module that carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the first lunar landing flight in 1969.
  • Challenger (OV-099) was named after a Navy ship, which from 1872 to 1876 made a prolonged exploration of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The name also was used for the Apollo 17 lunar excursion module (LEM).
  • Discovery (OV-103) was named after two ships – one in which Henry Hudson in 1610-11 attempted to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and instead discovered Hudson Bay and another in which Capt. Cook explored the Hawai’ian Islands and explored southern Alaska and western Canada.
  • Atlantis (OV-104) was named after a two-masted ketch operated for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from 1930 to 1966. That sailboat traveled more than half a million miles in ocean research.
  • Endeavour (OV-105) was named after the first ship commanded by 18th century British explorer James Cook. On its maiden voyage in 1788, Cook sailed into the South Pacific and around Tahiti to observe the passage of the planet Venus between the Earth and the Sun. During another leg of the journey, Cook reached New Zealand, surveyed Australia and navigated the Great Barrier Reef.

How the Space Shuttles Got Their Names Read more about the Space Shuttles and their history here.

Pictured: A replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour, for which a Space Shuttle was named

This article is part of Space Watch: November 2010 (Volume: 9, Issue: 11).