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.
That's a wrap folks! At precisely 5:57 a.m. EDT, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed back safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the very last time, successfully completing mission STS-135 and ending the Space Shuttle program for good.
Continuing our coverage of the Space Shuttle program's final moments in the cold depths of space, NASA's released this beautiful and calming photo of the Atlantis as it undocks from the International Space Station for the very last time.
After a successful final launch, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is set to return back to Earth tomorrow, ending 30-years of historic space exploration. Once its wheels touchdown on the tarmac, the Shuttle will undergo a cleansing process that'll prime it up for a quiet rest in the Smithsonian. Too bad, cleaning her and all of the other Shuttles is quite the pain in the butt.
The crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis has returned to the spacecraft and closed the hatch between the shuttle and the International Space Station for the last time. The view? Well, it couldn't be more beautiful, with the Aurora Australis sending Atlantis off with one hell of a light show.
Here's an excellent shot of a father and son and the first shuttle launch on April 12,1981 and at the last one on July 8, 2011. And it only took 30 years to complete.
Now that the shuttle era has ended, what is the future of the space program? Take a look at the infographic below to see space shuttle highlights and what might be next.
NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis might have launched itself into space for the last time last Friday, but did you know that onboard were a few gadget firsts? Yep, a Google Nexus S smartphone and a Panasonic 3D video cam snuck on for a free trip to the ISS.
Amid worries that the weather down in Florida would delay the final Space Shuttle launch until Saturday, the Atlantis soared into the sky, rockets blazing, on mission STS-135 to ferry supplies to the International Space Station.
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.