21 critical steps to getting a space shuttle ready for launch

Space shuttle launches, missions, and landings are what get all the press, but there's an immense amount of work that's necessary to get a shuttle ready for space. Each orbiter is built from more than 2.5 million parts, all of which need to work together to make the mission go smoothly from launch to landing, and it takes lots of very skilled people several months to make sure that everything checks out.

In the gallery below, we'll take you through some of the major steps involved in prepping a shuttle for orbit, from getting it home from the runway all the way through to the final seconds of the countdown.

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