The U.S. Congress authorized and funded construction of Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1987, following the tragic loss in 1986 of Challenger. Endeavor’s price tag was a cool $2.2 billion dollars.
Rockwell International won the contract and undertook the project, which took advantage of structural spares from two previous NASA orbiters; yet, the large conglomerate (now defunct, except for Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins) claimed to have made no profit off the Endeavour project.
Endeavour got its name from a NASA-sponsored contest, whereby students from across the nation submitted entries that included a short essay about the name, its significance, and why it was appropriate for a NASA space shuttle. More than one-third of the entries submitted recommended naming the then-new orbiter in homage to the HMS Endeavour, a British Royal Navy research vessel commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, famed explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain.
The HMS Endeavour carried Captain Cook on the first of his three “voyages of discovery” that would take him over thousands of miles in uncharted areas of the globe. Cook is credited with having surveyed, named, and mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii (where he died in battle during his third voyage of discovery) for the first time. Moreover, Cook and his crew aboard the HMS Endeavor became the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia.
Rockwell delivered Endeavour to NASA in May 1991. Its first launch came one year later, in May 1992, to capture and redeploy a stranded communications satellite. Four months later, in September 1992, the NASA orbiter would solidify its place in history as it carried the first African-American woman, Mae Jemison, into space. Also of historical significance, Endeavor was the first shuttle used to help repair the Hubble Space telescope.