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'Shuttle Down' is a novel by American author G. Harry Stine, written under the nom de plume Lee Correy. First appearing as a four-part serial in Analog magazine between December 1980 and March 1981, the novel was later published by Ballantine/Del Rey in 1981, with a second edition following in 1985.
The book can best be described as an early form of the Techno-thriller genre, later popularized by authors such as Tom Clancy.
In the book, the Space Shuttle 'Atlantis' launches on a polar orbit launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. During the launch, the main engines cut off prematurely and the shuttle is forced to make an emergency landing on Rapa Nui, better known to most of the world as Easter Island.
Landing is just the start of the problems for NASA, who now have to deal with the immense technological challenge of getting the shuttle back home. Problems include lack of documents for the astronauts and shuttle, bringing in the crane that's used to lift the shuttle onto the specially modified 747 that carries it, widening the runway to accommodate the 747, building turn-arounds on the runway so that it can turn and take off again, bringing in fuel for the plane and many, many other problems.
A subplot involves efforts by the Soviet Union to take the shuttle for themselves.
In real life, and shortly after publication of this book, the United States paid the Chilean Government to improve the facilities at Mataveri International Airport on Rapa Nui in case of just such an emergency, and the airport now has a relatively long runway.
In addition, astronauts now carry passports and other documents, including traveller's cheques, in case of emergency landings.
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