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The Space Shuttle was a spacecraft which was used by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. Space Shuttles were used to carry astronauts and cargo into space. Cargo such as satellites, parts of the International Space Station or scientific instruments were taken up into space by the space shuttle. It was a unique spacecraft because it could be used again and again.
Parts of the Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was made up of 3 parts. These were the orbiter, the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters.
The orbiter was shaped like a large airplane with wings and a tail. This allowed the Space Shuttle to glide and land on a runway. This allowed the reusable part of the Shuttle to be very large. Many spacecraft which came before the Space Shuttle, like the Apollo used parachutes when landing, and landed on the ocean. People have said that the Shuttle was very much like a pickup truck because of its usefulness.
The shuttle was launched out of Earth's gravity and into space by 3 rocket engines on the back of the orbiter along with help from 2 long white Solid Rocket Boosters (also called SRBs) Fuel for the shuttle was stored in the large, usually orange, External Fuel Tank (also called ET). Before the shuttle reached orbit, the SRBs were released and fell into the Atlantic Ocean where they were towed back to shore for reuse. The ET was also released but broke up and fell into the Indian Ocean and was not reused.
The space shuttles
The US space shuttles were:
A '†' next to a name means that the Shuttle was destroyed.
There was a Russian Shuttle called Buran. It flew one unmanned flight before being retired. The Buran was destroyed in a hangar collapse in 2002.
The shuttle was created in 1973. It replaced the Apollo capsules. The first flight was a test of the landing and maneuvering abilities of the shuttle. This flight used Space Shuttle Enterprise. The first shuttle flight in space was on April 12, 1981. It used Space Shuttle Columbia.
In the 1990s the Shuttle began working on the International Space Station (ISS). This was its main job of the shuttle since then.
Also in the 1990s, the Space Shuttle launched the Hubble telescope into space. Shuttle missions returned 5 times to repair and improve cameras and scientific instruments on the telescope.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up while returning STS-107 to Earth over Texas. The accident was caused by damage to the heat-shield which protects it from the heat of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. It again caused a long delay until the next shuttle flight.
Now all the shuttles have retired they may be replaced by the Orion (spacecraft). But the government has not yet funded this spacecraft.
The three remaining shuttles will go on display at museums. Enterprise, currently at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia; will move to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, in New York City and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center will receive the Discovery. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and Atlantis will stay in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.