Spaced Out: Space Shuttle Quiz


By: Staff

6 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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.

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


Which space shuttle accumulated the most career miles?

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?

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?

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 …

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?

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 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 — it's thermal protection system — made from?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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 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?

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?

A crew could be from five to seven people.


How many people have flown on shuttle missions?

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?

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

NASA's space shuttle program shuttered on Aug. 31, 2011.


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