Read It Listen to an audio version of this page.

young girl in space suit
The Space Shuttle
As the Space Shuttle returns to Earth from space, its belly glows red hot for about 10 minutes. The temperature of the Shuttle belly is over 1,200 degrees Celsius.

The Space Shuttle takes off like a rocket, orbits Earth like a spaceship, and lands like an airplane. Unlike earlier vehicles used for space travel, the Shuttle can be reused. The Shuttle has a huge payload bay in which cargo, such as a space probe, is carried into space. The Space Shuttle has allowed astronauts to carry out many important missions, such as the launch and repair of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Space Shuttle, side view
Space Shuttle
Six Space Shuttles have been built. The first was the Shuttle Enterprise, but it has never been into space. It was used for training exercises. The first Shuttle to orbit Earth was called Columbia. One of the Shuttles, Challenger, blew up on its way into orbit in 1986. The Shuttle Columbia broke into pieces trying to return to Earth from orbit in 2003.

Star Dog icon (looking right)

A Question

Multiple Choice

The Space Shuttle is a vehicle which takes off like a rocket, orbits like a spacecraft, and lands like a _______.

  1. car
  2. bird
  3. airplane
  4. helicopter
Star Dog icon (looking left)
Did you know?
The Answer
Show me the Level 2 version of this page.

The StarChild site is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/ GSFC.

StarChild Authors: The StarChild Team
StarChild Graphics & Music: Acknowledgments
StarChild Project Leader: Dr. Laura A. Whitlock
Curator: J.D. Myers
Responsible NASA Official: Phil Newman
If you have comments or questions about the StarChild site, please send them to us.