The Space Shuttle

The Space Shuttle made traveling in space like flying a plane. Space travel was no longer limited to trained astronauts. Space Shuttle passengers can now include scientists, doctors and other people needed to conduct experiments in space. The Space Shuttle has become the major launching vehicle for NASA. The Space Shuttle can take satallites into space, and it can also bring them back to Earth for repair. Check it out!


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The Launch

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The first Space Shuttle, name Columbia, took off into space on April 12, 1981.

The Space Shuttle takes off from a launch pad vertically, sitting on its tail, just like a rocket. Attached to the Space Shuttle are two booster rockets, and a large fuel tank. These help propel the Space Shuttle into space.

Within minutes of the launch, the booster rockets are exhausted and are ejected. Parachutes open from the booster rockets and slowly lower them into the Ocean. There they are picked up by a waiting ship.

This leaves the shuttle and the fuel tank. At about 75 miles above the Earth, the external fuel tank is now empty and separates. It falls back to Earth and lands in the India Ocean.

Two small rockets now ignite to steer the shuttle in space.

Space Shuttle Launch


The Cargo Bay

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The Space Shuttle has a large cargo bay. It is capable of carrying a large payload, such as a satellite, into space. The doors open to allow a satellite to be launched into orbit.

The cargo bay can also be used to carry laboratory equipment to perform experiments in space.

Space Shuttle Cargo Bay


The Space Arm

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The shuttle also has a remote manipulator arm, built by Canada. This arm is used to lift a payload, such as a satellite out of the cargo bay.

The remote manipulator arm can also be used to retreive a broken satellite from space. It can put the satellite back into the cargo bay allowing it to be returned to Earth for repair.

Space Shuttle Space Arm


Walking in Space

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Since there is zero gravity and air in space, the shuttle astronauts must wear a space suit. The space suit is a fully self contained life support system.

The shuttle astronauts can also move around in space using a manned maneuvering unit. This uses gas powered jets to help the astronaut to move in different directions. The manned maneuvering unit is useful in recovering or repairing broken satellites.

Walking in Space


Landing on Earth

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The Space Shuttle became the first vehicle to not only take off for space, but also to return from space. Previous rockets could only be used once.

When the space shuttle re-enters the atmosphere, it glides through the air just like an airplane. As it gets close to the ground, it lowers its landing gear. The Space Shuttle then lands horizontally on a runway, just like an ordinary airplane.

This ability to take off and land makes the Space Shuttle the first re-usable space craft.

Space Shuttle Landing on Earth


Transporting the Shuttle

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Occasionally the Space Shuttle must be moved between space centers. To do this, the shuttle is carried piggyback on a converted Boeing 747 jet. Transporting the Space Shuttle


Books on the Space Shuttle

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Other Links on the Space Shuttle

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NASA Shuttle Web
NASA Shuttle information including reference information, history, and launch information.

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