|Q. How fast does a Space Shuttle travel? What is its
altitude? How much fuel does it use?
A. Like any other object in low Earth orbit,
a Shuttle must reach speeds of about 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour) to
remain in orbit. The exact speed depends on the Shuttles orbital altitude, which normally
ranges from 190 miles to 330 miles (304 kilometers to 528 kilometers) above sea level,
depending on its mission. Each of the two solid rocket boosters on the Shuttle carries
more than one million pounds of solid propellant. The Shuttles large external tank is
loaded with more than 500,000 gallons of supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen,
which are mixed and burned together to form the fuel for the Shuttles three main rocket
Is the flag still on the Moon?
A. Yes. Although not visible to the naked eye from Earth, the American flag is
still on the Moon.
|Q. What is a launch window?
A. A launch window is the precise period of
time, ranging from minutes to hours, within which a launch must occur for a rocket or
Space Shuttle to be positioned in the proper orbit.
Sometimes, this window is determined
by the passing of an orbiting spacecraft with which the Shuttle must rendezvous, such as
the International Space Station or an ailing satellite. At other times, the Shuttle or an
unmanned rocket must be launched within a certain window so that it can release its
satellite payload at the right time to place it in an orbit over a certain region of
Who was the youngest astronaut to date?
A. Sally Ride was 32 years, 23 days old when
she flew on STS-7 in June 1983.
|Q. Who was the oldest astronaut to fly on
the Space Shuttle?
John Glenn was 77 when he flew on STS-95 in October/November 1998. Until then, the record
was held by Story Musgrave who was 61 when he flew on STS-80 in November 1996.
How much does it cost to launch a Space Shuttle?
A. Generally, the cost averages out to be
about $450 million per mission.
|Q. When are we going to Mars? And when are
we going back to the Moon?
A. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin has stated that we must accomplish at least
four objectives before we are prepared for a Mars mission. We must successfully build and
operate the planned International Space Station, gain working-level experience with other
nations in space cooperation, develop an affordable mission scenario that can be
accomplished in about one decade, and allow time for the world economy to improve
substantially. With these goals in mind, NASA currently plans to operate the Space Station
for at least the first decade of the next century, sending astronauts back to the Moon or
on to Mars during the second decade of the new century. This time frame could change with
Can I apply to take a ride on the Space Shuttle? Can I be the first kid in Space?
A. NASA has no immediate plans to send
children, teenagers or any other general citizens into space. For the near future at
least, spaceflight remains too risky and too expensive for anyone but highly trained
astronauts and payload specialists to take part in. However, one of our goals is to help
industry develop new rocket systems that would make spaceflight much more simple and
routine, so that many more people could go into orbit in the future.
|Q. Is there any chance for a school to run
a science experiment on the Shuttle?
A. NASA's Get Away Special (GAS) program
allows science and engineering-oriented experiments to fly aboard the Space Shuttle for as
little as $3,000, often funded by private industry. If you or your school are interested
in this program, more information may be obtained by contacting: Shuttle Small Payloads
Project, Customer Support Office, NASA/GSFC/740; Greenbelt, MD 20771; Telephone
(301)286-3388; Fax: (301) 286-1694; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the names of the Space Shuttle orbiters?
A. Their names, in the order they were built,
are Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Enterprise
was flown only within Earth's atmosphere, during Shuttle approach and landing tests
conducted in 1977. Columbia flew the first five Shuttle missions, beginning in April 1981,
and was modified to fly extended duration missions as long as 16 days. Challenger was
built as a vibration test vehicle and then upgraded to become the second operational
Shuttle. The Challenger and her seven-member crew were lost in a launch accident on
January 28, 1986. Discovery made her first flight in August 1984, and Atlantis followed in
October 1985. Endeavour, built to replace Challenger, made its debut in May 1992 with a
dramatic mission that featured the rescue of a stranded Intelsat 6 commercial
|Q. How much does the Space Shuttle cost?
A. The Space Shuttle
Endeavour, the orbiter built to replace the Space Shuttle Challenger, cost approximately
What happens to used spacecraft? Where is the Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle?
A. In early human space flight programs such
as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, the spacecraft underwent detailed post-mission analysis
that often yielded important new information on the rigors of traveling in space. Most of
these vehicles are displayed for the public at NASA Centers and science museums across the
country. For example, the Apollo 11 command module is displayed at the Smithsonian
Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The Enterprise, which was
not designed to fly in space, made a series of appearances at air shows in the United
States, Europe and Canada before being turned over to the Air and Space Museum. It is now
in storage awaiting the construction of a museum annex that would house it and numerous
other large historic aircraft.
|Q. Where in the sky can I see the
Internation Space Station or the Space Shuttle?
A. The naked-eye visibility charts for the
International Space Station and the Space Shuttle during a mission can be found through
the Space Flight home page at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/index.html.
NASA's Liftoff! home page also has an automated prediction e-mail service which will
e-mail you about the times when you can see the International Space Station, the Space
Shuttle or any of 500 satellites at http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/academy/rocket_sci/satellites/.
Can the Space Shuttle fly to the Moon?
A. No, the Shuttle is designed to travel to
low-Earth orbit (within a few hundred miles of the Earth's surface). It does not carry
enough propellant to leave Earth orbit and travel to the Moon. The Shuttle also is not
designed to land on the Moon since it lands like an airplane and the Moon has no
atmosphere. The Shuttle could be used to carry pieces of Moon or Mars vehicles to
low-Earth orbit, where they could be assembled prior to beginning their mission.
|Q. How do astronauts in space go to the
bathroom and take care of their personal hygiene?
A. Astronauts brush their teeth just like
they do on Earth. There is no shower on the Shuttle, so astronauts must make do with
sponge baths until they return home. Each Space Shuttle has a toilet that can be used by
both men and women. Designed to be as much as possible like those on Earth, the units use
flowing air instead of water to move waste through the system. Solid wastes are compressed
and stored onboard, and then removed after landing. Wastewater is vented to space,
although future systems may recycle it, such as they do on the Space Station Mir. The air
is filtered to remove odor and bacteria and then returned to the cabin.
What is the temperature in space?
A. Temperatures in space depend on whether
the thermometer is in sunlight or darkness. Near the Earth and the Moon, objects in direct
sunlight can heat up to temperatures of about 250 degrees F (121 degrees C). In the shade,
objects can cool down to around -250 degrees F (-156 degrees C). This extreme range is the
reason why the thermal designs of spacecraft and space suits are so important.
How much does a spacecraft weigh when it is in space?
A. An object in space is said to be in a
state of weightlessness, although its original mass remains the same. (Mass can be
understood as a measurement of inertia, the resistance of an object to be set in motion or
stopped from motion.) Objects in space near the Earth, the Moon, or other large bodies
retain a small amount of weight due to the tiny amount of planetary gravity that continues
to pull on them. However, orbital motion reduces this condition to an extremely low level
of gravity known as microgravity (about one-millionth of the normal gravity we feel at the
Earth's surface). When an object is in orbit about a large body like a planet, it is
traveling just fast enough to fall in a continuous curved path around the planet, without
flying off or falling down to the planet's surface. This free fall results in
microgravity. Thus, when a Shuttle crew wants to land, they fire the Shuttle's engines
directly into its forward path, slowing the Shuttle enough that it drops out of orbit.
Close to the Earth, the wispy upper atmosphere drags on some satellites enough through
friction that the satellites must be boosted periodically into higher orbits. Most
spacecraft that are sent on long voyages to other planets are actually in a looping orbit
around the Sun during their long outward trips.
How can I watch a Shuttle launch in person? Can I get a car pass??
A. Due to recent world events, NASA has suspended the issuance of car passes
for Space Shuttle launch viewing from inside of the Kennedy Space Center.
Therefore, we cannot accept any requests for future launches at this time.
However, a limited number of bus tickets to view the shuttle launches may be
available through Delaware North Park Services of Spaceport. Visitors to the
Kennedy Space Center may inquire about these tickets by contacting Delaware
North at (321) 449-4400.
To aid in your planning, a recorded manifest of anticipated launch dates is
available by calling (321) 867-4636. During countdown, a recorded launch
status is available on (321) 867-0600. The Space Shuttle Launch Schedule is
also available online.
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