The Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle is one of man's greatest accomplishments to date. It is a reusable space vehicle, unlike its predecessors like the apollo or gemini crafts. The shuttle takes off like a rocket, operates like a spacecraft while in orbit, and finally lands quite easily like a plane. They are launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
At the moment of take off almost seven million pounds of thrust is generated by the three main thrusters, and its two solid rocket boosters. After liftoff, the large reddish external fuel tanks filled with approximately half a million gallons of liquid nitrogen and oxygen burn for about two minutes before they are released from the shuttle and fall back into the Atlantic Ocean. These solid rocket boosters are retrieved by boats and can be used again.
The Shuttles cargo bay is used for the deployment and/or repair of satellites orbiting the Earth. It can accommodate up to 5 unmanned spacecrafts if necessary of various sizes and shapes. At the end of the mission the crew slows down the spacecraft and reenters the Earth's atmosphere by using small rockets located in the it's nose and tail. Thereafter, the crew controls the shuttle like an airplane using rudders and flaps. Amazingly during this entire process it goes from a speed of 1000 meters per second to about 100 meters per second at touchdown, and withstood temperatures up to 1000 degrees centigrade. When the space shuttle lands in Edwards Air Force Base in California it is transported back to Kennedy Space Center on the back of a 747 jet. After two weeks of repairs and the Space Shuttle will be ready for its next mission.