21 incredible things you didn't know about the Space Shuttle

The space shuttle itself is an amazing piece of technology. The statistics are simply mind-blowing: it's the most complex machine ever constructed with 2.5 million separate parts and 230 miles of wiring. Its three main engines are together more powerful than twelve Hoover Dams, and the pressure of their turbopumps could send a column of liquid hydrogen 36 miles into the sky. The shuttle can lift 25,000 pounds into orbit, and in total has carried some three million pounds of cargo and 600 people into space. It travels around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour. Together, all five orbiters have logged enough miles to make it out past Jupiter.

As cool as these numbers are, if you're a fan of the shuttle, you know all of this stuff already. Or if you don't, it probably doesn't surprise you. But we've scoured gigabytes of dusty and forgotten NASA websites to put together 21 epic nuggets of info about the Space Shuttle program that will surprise you, ranging from the seventh orbiter to the missing STS-13 to that time that the Soviets shot Challenger with a huge laser cannon. Yes, they really did. Read all about it in the gallery below.

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