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CNN Student News One-Sheet: Space Shuttle Facts

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  • Use this explainer to help students understand the history of the space shuttle program, a topic relevant to current news
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(CNN Student News) -- Use this explainer to help students understand the history of the space shuttle program, a topic relevant to current news.


• January 5, 1972 - Richard Nixon announces the intent to develop the first space shuttle for travel into space.

• April 12-14, 1981 - (Shuttle Columbia) The first space shuttle mission is designed to test the vehicle by sending it to orbit and landing safely. The mission is a success and starts a new era in the U.S. space program.

• November 12-14, 1981 - (Shuttle Columbia) The second shuttle mission is the first to carry a scientific payload: a number of Earth sensing devices. It's also the first time the Remote Manipulator Arm is successfully used.

• November 11-16, 1982 - (Shuttle Columbia) This mission carries the shuttle's first four-person crew (Vance D. Brand, Robert F. Overmyer, Joseph P. Allen and William S. Lenoir). It is also the shuttle's first operational mission, deploying two commercial communications satellites.

• June 18-24, 1983 - (Shuttle Challenger) Sally Ride becomes the first American woman to fly in space. This is also the first shuttle mission to fly with a five-person crew.

• August 30-September 5, 1983 - (Shuttle Challenger) The first African-American, Guion S. Bluford, flies in space. This is also the first shuttle mission with a night launch and night landing.

• November 28-December 8, 1983 - (Shuttle Columbia) The first six-person shuttle mission (John W. Young, Ulf Merbold, Owen Garriott, Brewster Shaw Jr., Byron Lichtenberg and Robert Parker) is also the debut mission of Spacelab, an orbital laboratory housed in the orbiter's cargo bay.

• August 30-September 5, 1984 - (Shuttle Discovery) Charles D. Walker becomes the first non-astronaut to fly on a shuttle mission, acting as NASA's first shuttle industrial payload specialist.

• October 5-13, 1984 - (Shuttle Challenger) This mission marks a number of milestones: the first seven-person crew, the first shuttle crew to include two women and the first space walk by a female astronaut (Kathryn Sullivan).

• January 28, 1986 - (Shuttle Challenger) The Challenger shuttle explodes 73 seconds after liftoff and kills the entire seven-person crew. One member, Christa McAulliffe, would have been the first teacher in space. The explosion is later determined to be caused by an O-ring failure in the right solid booster rocket. The accident forces an immediate suspension of the shuttle program.

• September 29-October 3, 1988 - (Shuttle Discovery) The first shuttle mission after the Challenger explosion finally launches 32 months after the accident. The five-person crew successfully deploys a satellite and performs numerous experiments.

• April 24-29, 1990 - (Shuttle Discovery) The Hubble Space Telescope launches into orbit successfully on this mission. The HST was designed to provide high-resolution astronomical observations with a variety of imaging instruments.

• December 2-13, 1993 - (Shuttle Endeavour) On this mission, astronauts successfully repair the Hubble Telescope and set a record for the longest space walk. The crew installs a corrective optics package that restores clear vision to the telescope.

• February 3-11, 1995 - (Shuttle Discovery) The shuttle Discovery makes a non-docking rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir, passing close enough for the crews of both craft to wave at each other. "As we are bringing our space ships closer together, we are bringing our nations closer together," says shuttle commander Jim Wetherbee after the shuttle reaches the point of closest approach to Mir.

• June 27-July 7, 1995 - (Shuttle Atlantis) This mission features the first ever shuttle/Mir docking. It also marks the 100th U.S. human space launch and the first in-orbit exchange of shuttle crew members.

• November 19-December 7, 1996 - (Shuttle Columbia) The 1996 mission marks the longest duration shuttle flight in the history of the program, at 423 hours, 53 minutes. The crew deploys and retrieves two free-flying spacecraft and performs microgravity research experiments.

• May 15-24, 1997 - (Shuttle Atlantis) The sixth Mir/Atlantis docking mission is the end of U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger's four-month stay on the troubled space station. During his stay, Mir experienced many problems, including a fire and a buildup of carbon dioxide.

• June 2-12, 1998 - (Shuttle Discovery) The 91st mission involved the final joint shuttle/Mir docking. Astronaut Andrew Thomas spends 141 days in space on the journey, including his stay on Mir.

• October 11-24, 2000 - (Shuttle Discovery) In what will be the 100th shuttle mission, Discovery moves toward a pad at Kennedy Space Center in preparation. In space, the shuttle installs a permanent structural truss and other components onto the international space station.

• December 5-17, 2001 - (Shuttle Endeavour) Endeavour makes its first trip into orbit following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The space shuttle and its seven astronauts blast off from Kennedy Space Center amid tight security.

• February 1, 2003 - (Shuttle Columbia) Minutes before touching down in Florida, the space shuttle Columbia breaks apart some 200,000 feet over Texas, after a large piece of foam ripped off during Columbia's lunch and gouged a hole in the left wing in the shuttle. During re-entry, the hole in the wing allowed atmospheric gases to burn the wing and destroy the orbiter. All seven astronauts onboard, including the first Israeli astronaut, are killed. The oldest orbiter in the fleet, Columbia had just completed an extra-long, 16-day science mission.

• April 29, 2005 - (Shuttle Discovery) NASA announces the delay of the launch of the space shuttle Discovery, the first shuttle to fly since the 2003 Columbia disaster, from May until July because of safety concerns.

• July 13, 2005 - (Shuttle Discovery) NASA postpones the launch of space shuttle Discovery due to a faulty fuel tank sensor.

• July 26, 2005 - (Shuttle Discovery) More than two-and-a-half years after the Columbia tragedy, NASA returns to manned space flight with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

• July 27, 2005 - NASA grounds its space shuttles until engineers solve the recurring problem of falling debris, pieces of which tore away from the shuttle Discovery shortly after blastoff on July 26, 2005.

• August 9, 2005 - (Shuttle Discovery) The shuttle Discovery lands safely at Edwards AFB in California.

• July 4, 2006 - (Shuttle Discovery) The space shuttle Discovery is successfully launched. This is NASA's first manned launch on Independence Day and its second shuttle flight since the Columbia accident of 2003.

• August 27-September 13, 2006 - (Shuttle Atlantis) This is the scheduled window for launching Atlantis. During their mission, Atlantis' six astronauts plan to conduct three spacewalks and deliver and install a 35,000-pound addition with giant solar arrays to power the international space station.

• September 9, 2006 - (Shuttle Atlantis) After delays, including bad weather, a faulty fuel cell pump and bad readings from an engine cutoff sensor, Atlantis launches successfully. Debris comes off the shuttle about four minutes into the flight. However, the debris is deemed to not be a threat to the shuttle.

• September 21, 2006 - (Shuttle Atlantis) The space shuttle Atlantis lands safely at the Kennedy Space Center.

• December 9-22, 2006 - (Shuttle Discovery) During their 12-day mission, Discovery's seven astronauts rewire the space station and deliver a two-ton addition. American astronaut Sunita Williams replaces German Thomas Reiter onboard the space station.

• June 8-23, 2007 - (Shuttle Atlantis) The crew installs a new segment and solar panel on the international space station and retrieves astronaut Sunita Williams, who has set the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman (195 days).

• August 8, 2007 - (Shuttle Endeavour) The shuttle carries teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and six crewmates to the ISS. Barbara Morgan was the backup candidate for the NASA Teacher in Space Program, training with Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger astronauts in 1985.

• October 23, 2007 - (Shuttle Discovery) Aboard Discovery is Harmony, an Italian-built, live-in compartment that is attached to the international space station. Discovery is under the command of Pamela Melroy, the second woman to lead a space shuttle mission.

• November 7, 2007 - (Shuttle Discovery) Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center, with Commander Pamela Melroy becoming the second woman to land a space shuttle. Returning with the shuttle is Clayton Anderson, who had been onboard the international space station since June.

• February 7, 2008 - (Shuttle Atlantis) NASA launches the space shuttle Atlantis. During their mission, the seven-member crew will travel to the international space station and attach Columbus, Europe's space station lab.

• March 11, 2008 - (Shuttle Endeavour) In a rare nighttime launch, the space shuttle Endeavour embarks on a mission that will bring two new components to the international space station in a joint effort with Japan and Canada. At 16 days, the mission is expected to be NASA's longest space shuttle trip ever to the ISS.

Fast facts

• There have been five orbiters in the shuttle program's history: Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Endeavour.

• The shuttle launches like a rocket, orbits like a spacecraft and lands like a plane.

• The space shuttle system is made up of three components: (1) The two solid rocket boosters, providing 80% of the launch thrust; (2) the external tank, which provides fuel to the space shuttle's main engines during launch; and (3) the orbiter, which serves as the crew's home during the flight.

• Space shuttles are the "world's first reusable spacecrafts." All of the components are reused except for the external fuel tank. It burns up in the atmosphere after launch.

• The space shuttle is 184 feet long. The orbiter is 122 feet long.

• The liftoff weight of the space shuttle is 4.5 million pounds.

• Crews range in size from five to seven people. Over 600 crew members have flown on shuttle missions.

• The space shuttle program has sent over 3 million pounds of cargo into space.

• The longest any shuttle has stayed in orbit is 17.5 days in November 1996. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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