Gallery: The Eco Facts Behind NASA’s Legendary Space Shuttle Program


On July 21st, at approximately 6:00AM, the Space Shuttle Atlantis will land signaling the end of NASA’s 30 year-long Space Shuttle Program. During its 30 year run, the world has seen the five shuttles (Enterprise never flew in space) complete 135 missions taking satellites into space or aiding in the construction of the International Space Station. Atlantis’ final mission will mark the end of an era, and to celebrate the event we’re taking a look at the amazing eco-facts you never knew about the space shuttle.

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  1. ahinalu July 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    -“But one should note that most of the ‘smoke’ seen at shuttle launches is actually water vapor creating by the burning liquid hydrogen.”

    Well, yes and no….

    Thousands of gallons of water are dumped within a second or two into the pool below all the launches, this minimizes noise and cools the pad.

    I wonder how much cooling effect all this water vapor has compared to the global warming gases released during launch?

    @lazyreader, almost all of the technology used by private space flight companies (and even other nations space agencies) where developed by NASA and other US agencies. R&D is the most expensive part of the space program (of any emerging technology). Imagine how much money IBM put into computer development compared to how much it cost Mr. Dell to start a computer company in his dorm room, he couldn’t have done it without the investment by IBM.

  2. lazyreader July 15, 2011 at 8:47 am

    The Space Shuttle may use fuel cells to provide electricity, but they still use the toxic hydrazine as the principal fuel for orbital maneuvering. That hydrogen fuel was probably obtained using natural gas. Those fuel cells are over 25 years old, not very efficient. And nowadays there’s nothing the Shuttle can’t do that a rocket couldn’t do cheaper. I was always impressed by the shuttle as a kid. Still when I see it now compared to private firms dedicated to launch space vehicles of their own for a fraction of the price, the shuttles a White Elephant. All the ISS components and subsequent could have been launched using disposable and cheaper heavy lift rockets.

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