Space Shuttle Fun Facts and Trivia

Brad Sylvester
Yahoo Contributor Network
Space Shuttle Fun Facts and Trivia
NASA space shuttle Endeavor sits in the foreground as the Columbia is ferried past on its way to California for inspection and repair in 1994.

Here are some fun space shuttle facts you can use to test the knowledge of your favorite space enthusiast or trivia buff.

What is the space shuttle's Star Trek connection?

Trekkies may know that the original Space Shuttle was named Enterprise, but that name only came about after a write-in campaign by fans of the show Star Trek. NASA and the White House renamed the test shuttle Enterprise after originally calling it the Constitution. The space shuttle Enterprise never actually made it into space. It was used as a test vehicle to demonstrate the shuttle's ability to fly in atmosphere and land on conventional runways. See a photo of the Star Trek cast posing with the space shuttle Enterprise here. The Enterprise is now on display at the McDonnell Space Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

What are the records for longest and shortest space shuttle missions?

Mission STS-80, flown by the Columbia, holds the record for the longest duration space shuttle mission at 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes and 18 seconds. The mission launched on Nov. 19, 1996, and landed on Dec. 7. The record for the shortest space shuttle mission was set when the Challenger came to its tragic end on mission STS-51L, exploding in mid-air, just one minute and 13 seconds into its flight. The Challenger explosion claimed the lives of Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

What is the smallest number of crew members to fly a space shuttle mission?

The early space shuttle missions flew with a crew of just two members, a mission commander and a pilot. On the first shuttle flight, Robert Crippen was the pilot and John Young was the commander of the space shuttle Columbia.

How many space shuttles are there?

Five space shuttles have flown into orbit. They are Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis. The test shuttle Enterprise would make six. Of these, Challenger and Columbia were destroyed by in-flight malfunctions.

When do the solid rocket boosters detach from the shuttle?

The solid rocket boosters (SRB) provide thrust for about the first two minutes of the space shuttle's flight before they run out of fuel and detach. When the SRBs separate from the shuttle, they are traveling at more than 3,000 miles per hour, and they continue to coast upward for 13 more miles before they begin their 41-mile fall back to Earth. Parachutes slow the descent of the spent SRBs so that they are not damaged by the impact of landing in the ocean.

How big are the space shuttles?

Each space shuttle measures 122 feet long and 57 feet high in its horizontal position, not including the detachable boosters. The wingspan of the space shuttle is 78 feet. The pressurized crew module has an internal volume of 2,325 cubic feet and houses a maximum of seven astronauts. The robotic arm in the payload section of the space shuttle is 50 feet long.

Where can I find out more about space and NASA?

Subscribe to space-related articles at Yahoo's Associated Content, join the Space Matters Facebook page, or follow @space_matters on Twitter. NASA has pages on the space shuttle and human space flight.