President Richard Nixon passed a new law that allowed NASA to build America’s first space shuttle.

After the United States achieved President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth, policymakers asked the question, after Apollo, what next?

Shortly after taking office in 1969, President Richard M. Nixon empaneled a group of experts to provide him with recommendations on the nation’s future direction in space. Faced with tight federal budgets, President Nixon could not support most of the panel’s recommendations due to their high cost. In January 1972, he directed NASA to develop and build a reusable space transportation system, commonly known as the space shuttle. The reusability of the shuttle’s components was expected to provide regular access to space to many customers, while at the same time reducing costs.