The space shuttles are orbital spacecrafts, built by NASA to do manned space flight and are considered the most complex machines made by humans. NASA built 5 shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and more recently, the Endeavor. Two of the space shuttles have been destroyed. The Challenger exploded while launching in 1986 and the Columbia was destroyed on re-entry in 2003.
The shuttles carry 5-7 astronauts and up to 50,000 lbs (22,700 kg) of payload (cargo) into low earth orbit. They can dock with the International Space Station, bring them crew and supplies and do repairs. The shuttles also can bring cargo from the Space Station back to earth as well as satellites left in orbit.
To get back to earth, a space shuttle must fire its maneuvering thrusters to push it out of orbit and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. The shuttle comes down to earth and lands with no power, but glides in for a landing.
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Amsel, Sheri. "Space Shuttle - 1981 - present" Exploring Nature Educational Resource ©2005-2021. March 1, 2021
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