According to NASA, the space shuttle had to be going 17,500 miles per hour to maintain orbit around the Earth. As a comparison, the equator is 24,901.55 miles long.
The speed of the space shuttle varied according to how far it is from the Earth. To reach those high speeds, the space shuttle used a mixture of very cold oxygen with hydrogen as fuel. The ship also uses hydrazine, monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. The fuels burn so hot that the shuttle had a necessary heat protection system, which was made mostly of sand formed into tiles. Because the shuttle was able to go so fast, astronauts got to see more than their share of sunrises and sunsets as one or the other happens every 45 minutes.
NASA actually built six space shuttles to orbit the Earth. The six space shuttles were Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. Enterprise never flew in space, although all the others did. Both Columbia and Challenger were destroyed in accidents, killing the crews aboard, Challenger on takeoff and Columbia on reentry. However, Atlantis was flown for the last time in July of 2011 as the program was retired after almost four decades. At the time the program was ended, only Atlantis, Endeavor, and Discovery were still being used by NASA. It was an expensive program. Each takeoff cost NASA almost half a billion dollars.Learn More
The first U.S. space shuttle to orbit the Earth was Columbia. It launched on April 12, 1981, from Kennedy Space Center. Crewed by astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, it remained in orbit two days before landing safely, airplane-like, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.Full Answer >
Astronauts float in space because they and the spacecraft in which they are traveling are orbiting the Earth in a free-fall trajectory that matches the curvature of the planet. By free falling around the Earth, the astronauts and their spacecraft avoid burning up in the atmosphere.Full Answer >
To survive in space, humans require access to the basic life support items necessary to survive on Earth: food, breathable air, potable water, a means of removing waste and adequate shelter from extreme environmental conditions. In addition, humans require a means of transiting from Earth to space and back.Full Answer >
According to Universe Today, astronauts use radio waves to communicate with Earth and between craft in space. While these waves travel at the speed of light, the long distances involved can induce delays in conversation between Earth and astronauts on long-distance missions.Full Answer >