The space shuttle was a spacecraft that was used to ferry cargo and people into low earth orbit. It was launched by a rocket and flew back into the atmosphere to a runway landing. The space shuttle flew from 1981 to 2011 for a total of 135 missions.
As with many NASA projects, the space shuttle originated from Germans who had worked in the Third Reich's rocketry program. Walter Dornberger, who had been the military liaison in Germany for Wernher von Braun and other top German scientists, submitted a proposal in 1954 for a spacecraft returning from space to a horizontal landing. This idea came under the ambit of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The scheme culminated in an aeronautics research experiment later named the X-15.
While the NACA project took time to germinate, in the late 1960s the administration of President Richard M. Nixon started looking beyond the Apollo moon program. The NACA scheme became the Integrated Launch and Re-entry Vehicle (ILRV). President Nixon authorized experiments for the ILRV based on a commission headed by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, and by August 1973 the program was proven feasible.