Lift Off!

With a roar, the space shuttle takes off on a new mission. Inside it's a bumpy ride for the astronauts. They are pressed back in their seats by the speed of the takeoff.

Just eight minutes after launch, the shuttle is in space. The booster rockets and the large, black fuel tank have detached. The engines turn off, and the shuttle quietly begins to orbit Earth.

When the astronauts are ready, they open the doors to the cargo bay. The bay is large enough to hold a bus and may be carrying a satellite such as the Hubble Telescope or modules to build the International Space Station. A long robot arm on the shuttle will lift out the cargo.

After about a week in space, it's time to come home. With a blast from its engines, the shuttle falls from orbit and glides back to Earth. As it touches down on the runway, the shuttle releases a parachute that slows it down enough for the crew to apply the brakes.

Welcome home! Mission accomplished!

Did You Know…

A special trolley carries the shuttle to the launch site. It moves very slowly and carefully, only a few feet a minute.

Two rocket boosters help blast the shuttle into space. They have parachutes in their tips so they can fall safely back to Earth and be used again on the next shuttle flight.

The shuttle opens the doors of its cargo bay. On some missions the shuttle carries scientific equipment and space station parts.

Astronauts help to build the space station.


A device used to help launch a vehicle such as a rocket.

A unit of a spacecraft that performs a specific task to help the spacecraft function.

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  1. How can you tell the space shuttle is going fast as it takes off?
  2. The space shuttle's engines turn off after the shuttle reaches space. Do you think the shuttle is going faster or slower than it was when it was flying towards space?
  3. How do you know the shuttle is going fast when it lands on the runway?