Fact 1 – You could touch a Shuttle minutes after re-entry – Each Space Shuttle had about 30,000 tiles on their belly that acted as a heat shield when the spacecraft experienced searing heat of 1,650 “C (3,000 “F). The tiles were so efficient and cooled so fast, though, that you could hold one in your hand just minutes after they reached peak temperature.
Fact 2 – Columbia weighed more than 13 elephants – All of the Shuttle’s were heavy but Columbia, at 178,000 pounds, weighed more than about 13.4 African Elephants at 13,200 pounds each. In length, each Shuttle was longer than three school buses, with the full launch assembly about the same height as the Statue of Liberty.
Fact 3 – They could empty a pool in 25 seconds – Each Shuttle orbiter used so much fuel that they could drain 12 average sized swimming pools in five minutes. At launch an entire Shuttle launch assembly weighed 4.5 million pounds (2 million kg), but nearly 80% of this was fuel expended during launch.
Fact 4 – The tyres could support three jet airliners – Although each of the Shuttle’s tyres were not much bigger than those on a truck, they could withstand the load of three Boeing 747s or 40 NASCAR racecars hitting the pavement and decelerating from 250 mph (400 km/h).
Fact 5 – They travelled to Jupiter – Together the five Space Shuttles travelled a total distance of 826.7 million kilometres (513.7 million miles), which is equivalent to a journey from Earth to Jupiter and a third of the way back. Every orbiter also travelled further than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, except Challenger.