IMAGE ABOVE: Space Shuttle Columbia, launch of the first shuttle mission called STS-1 on April 12, 1981. This was exactly 20 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.
After Apollo, Skylab and ASTP, there was about 5 years during which America had no vehicle capable of launching people into space. Then, in 1981, NASA returned to the human spaceflight business with the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle was a reusable vehicle that put astronauts into Earth orbit many. many times over the course of decades. it was an impressive and sometimes deadly vehicle.