A History Of Space Shuttles

Space: no longer the final frontier. Since 1961 when the former Soviet Union's Vostok 1 first transcended Earth's atmosphere into space, humankind has feverishly pursued the limits of extraterrestrial travel. Although by now NASA has retired its three-shuttle-fleet, including the famed Atlantis, space explorers have a rich history of suiting up and blasting off. More than 600 crew members and 3 million pounds of cargo have carved their way into territory once thought to be off-limits to humans. That's not to say there haven't been tragedies along the way, however: The Challenger exploded only minutes after launching, the Columbia disintegrated above Texas, and the Apollo 1 experienced an on-ground fire in the space capsule. Despite the missteps, the risk of venturing into space has its rewards. By traveling around the Earth at a rate of 17,500 miles-per-hour, crew members are treated to either a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes out their window. And with a breathtaking view of the Earth in its entirety, that's not your average sunrise.

But how exactly does a space shuttle work, and why are they considered "renewable"? What happens to the crew and rocket once a mission is over? The journey of a space shuttle is long and arduous, but filled with wonder and awe. Check out this playlist to learn more about the amazing science behind launching rockets into space.

Written by Curiosity Staff September 11, 2014

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