NASA’s first shuttle was launched in April, 1981. In 30 years of operation, the fleet of 5 shuttles; Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, officially known as the Space Transportation Systems (STS), had completed more than 20,000 orbits of Earth, docked at the International Space Station (ISS) 35 times, supported Â 29Â Spacelabs experiments, conducted 5 servicing missions to theÂ Hubble Space Telescope, and finally transported civilians into space.
Fact 1. Due to rising cost and limited budget for the Shuttle program, NASA had to scour on eBay for spare parts.
Fact 2. Â The U.S. government and NASA spent more than U.S. $192 billion on the Shuttle from 1971 to 2010. During the operational years from 1982 to 2010, the average cost per launch was aboutÂ $1.2 billion. Over the life of the program, this had increased to $1.5 billion per launch
Fact 3. Â The ChallengerÂ killed 7 people during the launch of its 10thÂ mission in 1986. The explosion of theÂ ColumbiaÂ killed 7 during re-entry of its 28thÂ mission in 2003.
Fact 4. Â Star Trek fans got NASA to change the name of the original shuttle from Constitution to Enterprise.
Fact 5.Â The amount of fuel consumed by the orbiter every 25 seconds is equivalent to the size of an average swimming pool.
Fact 6. The crew on a space shuttle can witness a sunset or a sunrise every 45 minutes due to the speed of the shuttle at 17,500 miles per hour.
Fact 7. Â NASA has carried quite the unexpected objects in to space. These include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, The New York Mets’ Home Plate, Buzz Lightyear (Toystory), Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber, Ashes of Star Trek’s Creator, Sports Jerseys, Jamestown Colony Cargo Tag, NASCAR Starter Flags and Dirt from Yankee Stadium.
Fact 8. Â Â The space shuttle’s Thermal Protection System, or heat shield, contains more than 30,000 tiles that are constructed of sand. They are a crucial tool that allows the space shuttle to endure the intense heat endured when the shuttle re-enters Earth’s atmosphere to land. After the tiles are heated to peak temperature, the tiles cool fast enough a minute later.
Fact 9. On May 11, 2009, astronaut Michael J. Massimino, a crewmember of the space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-125 mission, became the first person to tweet from space.
Fact 10. The retired Shuttle program provided a platform for experimentation with materials, technologies and the reaction of human physiology to gravity.