# Spaced Out: Space Shuttle Quiz

4 min
Image: SSPL/Getty Images

At its best, the space shuttle is the embodiment of 20th-century scientific progress. At its worst, the shuttle is a symbol of the dangers that come with space travel. Take this quiz to see how much you know about the space shuttle program.
How fast does a shuttle need to travel to achieve orbit?
15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kilometers per hour)
18,000 miles per hour
32,000 miles per hour

To achieve orbit, a space shuttle needs to reach about 18,000 miles per hour as it speeds out of Earth's atmosphere.

What is the top speed of a space shuttle as it orbits Earth?
17,500 miles per hour (28,2000 kilometers per hour)
19,000 miles per hour
28,000 miles per hour

While in orbit, a space shuttle travels at about 17,500 miles per hour (28,200 kilometers per hour).

At this speed, how often does the shuttle crew watch the sun rise or set?
every 20 minutes
every 45 minutes
every 12 hours

While traveling 17,500 miles per hour around Earth, crew members can see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

How long does a typical space shuttle mission last?
seven to eight days
between two and three months

A typical shuttle mission lasts seven to eight days from launch to landing, though they've been known to last up to two weeks, depending on the mission's objectives.

What is the longest amount of time a shuttle has stayed in orbit during a mission?
17 days, 15 hours
16 days, 21 hours
15 days, 21 hours

The longest space shuttle mission was 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, 18 secs, between Nov. 19, 1995, and Dec. 7, 1996.

True or false: The combined mileage of the five space shuttles equals the distance between Earth and Jupiter.
true
false

The combined mileage of all five orbiters â€” 513.7 million miles (826.7 million kilometers) â€” is 1.3 times greater than the distance between Earth to Jupiter.

Which space shuttle accumulated the most career miles?
Atlantis
Columbia
Discovery
Endeavor

Discovery, flown between 1984 and 2011, traveled 148.2 million miles (238.5 million kilometers) during its 39 missions.

Who is the only president to have witnessed a space shuttle launch firsthand?
George H.W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Barack Obama

On Oct. 29, 1998, President Bill Clinton watched John Glenn's return to space on the Mercury STS-95 flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

What percentage of the thrust necessary to lift a space shuttle do the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) provide?
50 percent
71 percent
100 percent

The SRBs provide about 71 percent of the main force necessary to lift a shuttle into space. The remaining 29 percent of the thrust is supplied by the orbiter's three main engines.

The main engine's external fuel tank primarily contains â€¦
liquid oxygen
liquid hydrogen
liquid nitrogen

The external fuel tank of the shuttle's main engines is mostly filled with liquid hydrogen. While the engines burn both liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, these substances are stored in a 6-1 ratio in favor of liquid hydrogen. The engines draw enough liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to empty a family swimming pool every 10 seconds.

Which of the following is NOT a reason the external fuel tank is covered with a special, inch-thick layer of foam insulation?
to keep the fuel cold
to minimize ice formation
to stabilize the tank so it doesn't dislodge after ignition

The polyisocyanurate foam insulation that covers the external fuel tank is crucial to the shuttle's liftoff. However, it doesn't play a role in stabilizing the tank after ignition. Its three primary purposes are to keep the fuel cold, protect the fuel from heat that builds up on the exterior of the fuel tank in flight and minimize ice formation.

What part of the shuttle orbiter contains the main engines?
the aft fuselage
the forward fuselage
the forward reaction control system (RCS) module

The main engines are housed in the orbiter's aft fuselage. The forward fuselage contains support equipment for the crew, while the RCS module stores forward rocket jets for steering the orbiter.

What is the shuttle's heat shield â€” it's thermal protection system â€” made from?
cork
plastic
sand

The thermal protection system contains more than 30,000 tiles made from sand.

What does the "STS" prefix in front of NASA mission names indicate?
science technology system
space tourism society
space transportation system

STS is an acronym for "space transportation system," the official name of the space shuttle program.

What U.S. president announced the development of the space shuttle?
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard M. Nixon

President Richard M. Nixon announced that NASA would develop a reusable space shuttle or space transportation system (STS) in 1972. The shuttle would consist of an orbiter attached to solid rocket boosters and an external fuel tank, and the prime contract was awarded to Rockwell International.

Which of the following occurs at T plus 8.5 minutes of a typical shuttle launch?
the shuttle engines are at maximum throttle
the external fuel tank separates from the orbiter
the main engines shut down

If all goes well, the shuttle's main engines will shut down at T plus 8.5 minutes of the launch. About 30 seconds later, the fuel tank will separate from the orbiter, burning when it re-enters the atmosphere. The shuttle engines are at maximum throttle several minutes earlier in the course of a launch, usually at about T plus 60 seconds.

What caused Challenger to break apart at the beginning of what would have been the shuttle's 10th flight?
damaged heat shield
disconnected thruster cover
faulty seal
hydrogen gas leak

On Jan. 28, 1986, a faulty seal on one of Challenger's solid rocket boosters failed in the cold temperatures.

Which of the following best describes the communication system between mission control and the shuttle orbiter?
Mission control sends a signal directly to the shuttle, using the S-band system for audio.
A signal is sent to a radio antenna, which relays the signal to satellites, and then to the shuttle.
Mission control sends a signal to a station in California, which sends a signal directly to the shuttle.

Communication between mission control in Houston and the shuttle orbiter is a three-step process. Basically, mission control will send signals to a 60-foot (18-meter) radio antenna at a test facility in New Mexico. This antenna will relay the signals to a pair of tracking and data relay satellites in orbit 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) above Earth. The satellites will relay the signals to the space shuttle. The system also works in reverse; when the orbiter contacts mission control, the signal goes from the satellites to the test facility to Houston.

Why does NASA place more than 100 cameras around the launch pad to film the shuttle during liftoff?
It records the liftoff in an effort to detect possible debris or damage to the shuttle that occurred.
It records the liftoff from different angles to get footage for the official documentary.
It records the liftoff to ensure that experiments on the exterior of the orbiter occur without incident.

NASA uses 107 infrared, high-speed digital video, high-definition TV, 35-millimeter and 16-millimeter cameras around the launch pad to detect possible damage to the shuttle that occurs after liftoff. Ten sites within 40 miles (64 kilometers) of liftoff are also equipped with cameras to detect possible damage, and there are also cameras on the external fuel tank, on the solid rockets boosters and in the orbiter itself.

Who was the first astronaut to tweet from space?
Chris Ferguson
Michael Massimino
Scott Kelly

Astronaut Michael Massimino, as a crewmember on Atlantis, was the first to tweet from space.

True or false: The space shuttle external tank (ET) is left unpainted.
true
false
true and false

True and false on this one. The ET was originally painted white during the first 2 missions but left unpainted from then on.

Which space shuttle component is NOT reusable?
external fuel tank
orbiter
solid rocket boosters

The external fuel tank can't be reused because it's destroyed in the atmosphere after launch.

What's the biggest crew that could fly in a space shuttle orbiter?
two
five
seven

A crew could be from five to seven people.

How many people have flown on shuttle missions?
less than 200
less than 500
more than 600

More than 600 people have flown on NASA space shuttle missions.

The power from the three main engines is equivalent to the energy created by which energy source?
23 Hoover Dams
10 Niagara Falls hydroelectric stations
Kryptonite

It would take the energy equivalent to 23 Hoover Dams to equal that produced by the shuttle's three main engines.

What damaged part failed to protect the Columbia and its seven-astronaut crew as the shuttle attempted to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003?
heat shield
ground umbilical carrier plate
thruster cover

Columbia broke apart over Texas after its damaged heat shield was unable to protect the shuttle and its crew as it attempted to land.

Which was the last song played during the final wake-up call for the last shuttle crew?
"Fanfare for the Common Man"
"God Bless America"
"Good Day Sunshine"
"Rocket Man"

A version of "God Bless America" sung by Kate Smith played on the last morning of the final shuttle mission. Other songs played during the STS-135 mission include "Rocket Man" by Elton John and "Run the World (Girls)" by Beyonce.

True or false: A Buzz Lightyear figure from "Toy Story" has been to the International Space Station.
true
false

A 12-inch (30-centimeter) Buzz Lightyear doll flew to the ISS as part of an educational and outreach program between NASA and Disney.

How long did 12-inch Buzz spend in orbit?
less than 6 months
more than a year

Buzz Lightyear spent 468 days in space, leaving on Discovery on May 31, 2008, and returning Sept. 11, 2009.

After decades of shuttle missions, when did the space shuttle program officially end?
2001
2010
2011
2015