In 1972, Apollo 17 carried the last batch of astronauts to the lunar surface. But during that same year, NASA was already beginning the design and develop their next generation of crew-carrying craft. Nearly a decade later, the Space Shuttle was born.
The Space Shuttle Program eventually flew 135 missions, making it the core of American crewed spaceflight efforts for nearly four decades. The first orbital test flight, STS-1, carried out by Space Shuttle Columbia, blasted off April 12, 1981 from historic launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.