The Last Space Shuttle Discovery Flight ... but not the last Space Shuttle Flight

Space Shuttle Discovery is about to make her last flight (STS-133) Thursday (Februay 24, 2011) before being decomissioned after she returns later in March. I remember watching these shuttles with a lot more interest as a kid, but I still find them fascinating to say the least. 

Including today, there are only 3 flights left of the Space Shuttle Program.

1) today- Discovery (STS 133)

2) estimated April 2011 - Endeavour (STS 134)

3) estimated June 2011 -  Atlantis (STS 135)

I for one, will be very sad to see this program go away....

 

Let's recap the shuttles' 30 year run with some fun and interesting facts :

First Takeoff- Columbia, April 12, 1981.  There was only a 2 person crew aboard and it landed at Edwards' Air Force Base April 14, 1981.

There were five shuttles that were used during it's history:  Challenger (lost 1986), Columbia (lost 2003), Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis. The first shuttle "Enterprise", was made but never launched.  Anyone care to guess where they got the name from on that? (think of a certain Captain portrayed by William Shatner in the 60's through the 90's).

1995 was the first year the Shuttle (Atlantis) docked with the Soviet Space Station Mir.

The International Space Station construction began in 1997.

The Mobile Launch pad that the shuttles launch from move at approximately 1mph when the shuttle is loaded on it.

The main company/provider of the shuttles is Rockwell International.

It takes approximately 8 minutes for the Shuttle to accelerat to roughly 17,000 mph.

The Shuttle weighs approximately 14% of a train engine, yet delivers the horsepower of close to 40 locomotives.

The liquid hydrogen used to power the shuttle main engine is stored at -253 degrees C (-423 degrees F). When burned, it heats to over 3000 degrees C (6000 degrees F).

A stacked up booster is approximately the same height as the Statue of Liberty (minus the pedestal base under "Lady Liberty").

The Endeavour cost $2.1 billion.

Total Weight at lift-off: up to 4.5 million pounds.

Maximum Payload Weight is 59,000 pounds.

Space Shuttle System Length is 184 feet.

The Orbiter is 122 feet long, with a wingspan of 78 feet.

While not common to have more than one shuttle on a pad at one time, there have been 19 times where 2 shuttles and 2 pads were used.

Most shuttle flights are approximately 7 days in length. The longest shuttle flight was Columbia (STS-80) from November 19 to December 7, 1996 with a total time of 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes and 18 seconds.

 

More information/fun facts:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/news/facts/shuttlefacts-toc.html

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