8 Surprising Space Shuttle Facts

After 30 years of service, NASA’s fleet of three space shuttles is standing down for good.

The final shuttle mission planned, the STS-135 launch of Atlantis, is scheduled for July 8. After that, the orbiters will be headed to museums to live out their lives on public display.

As we say goodbye to the iconic reusable space planes, here are eight surprising shuttle facts to keep in mind:

1. Top speed

While in orbit, the space shuttle travels around Earth at a speed of about 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour. At this speed, the crew can see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

2. Well traveled

The combined mileage of all five orbiters is 513.7 million miles (826.7 million km), or 1.3 times the distance between Earth and Jupiter. Each orbiter, except for Challenger, traveled farther than the distance between Earth and the sun.

3. Presidential attention

Only one president has been on hand to witness a space shuttle launch. President Bill Clinton, along with his wife Hillary Clinton, watched Mercury astronaut John Glenn’s return to space on the STS-95 flight on Oct. 29, 1998 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

President Obama had planned to watch the shuttle Endeavour lift off on its final mission STS-134, on April 29, 2011, but that launch was delayed. The President and his family did visit the spaceport anyway.

4. Space science

The space shuttle isn’t just a mode of transport: It’s a laboratory, too. There have been 22 Spacelab missions, or missions where science, astronomy, and physics have been studied inside a special module carried on the space shuttle… Read More [via foxnews]

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