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. Is the space shuttle bigger or smaller than a school bus?
    [anno: The space shuttle is bigger than a school bus.]
  2. Do you think it takes a lot of energy for the space shuttle to take off? Why or why not?
    [anno: Answers will vary but could include that it takes a lot of energy for the space shuttle to take off because the space shuttle is so big.]
  3. What helps power the space shuttle into space?
    [anno: The space shuttle's booster rockets provide a burst of energy to help power the space shuttle into space.]
  4. Which needs more energy to take off, the space shuttle or an airplane? Why?
    [anno: Answers may vary but could include that the space shuttle needs more energy to take off because it is heavier than an airplane.]