For thousands of years mankind has wondered what could be found beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Some thought the Earth was inclosed inside a glass ball, and that if a person could climb a mountain high enough they could touch the glass. Others told stories of the gods and spirits that inhabited this celestial arena.
Today we no longer wonder, we are no longer restricted to merely climbing mountains, now we can actually leave the Earth all together. NASA's Shuttle Program is one of the most exciting advancements in the world, and will, along with other programs world wide, lead to the exploration of new worlds, and someday even new star systems.
What is the Space Shuttle?
It is an ingenious cross between an airplane, and a rocket. Lets explore all the different parts of the shuttle using the diagram below.
How long has NASA been using the Space Shuttle?
The U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia completed its first mission in April 1981 and made several successive flights. It was followed by the Challenger, which made its first mission in April 1983. There after there have been many successful flights in a number of different shuttles.
What does NASA use the Shuttle for?
As we discussed above, the Shuttle Program is one of NASA's most exciting endeavors. Through the work done by astronauts during these shuttle missions scientists learn the effects of weightlessness on humans, they learn how to make better equipment, they develop invaluable medical, and technological advances, and they set the stage for future exploration.
Today only astronauts can visit Outer Space, This is because a space shuttle mission is very expensive. However NASA is developing new space crafts that will eventually replace the Space Shuttle such as the x34 and x33. These space craft will make it several times cheaper to fly a space mission, and may eventually allow everyone to take a vacation in space.