Today at 11:29 a.m. (EDT), the space shuttle Atlantis launched from the Kennedy Space Center and headed to the International Space Station with four US astronauts on board. This marks the final NASA space shuttle mission as the program retires and space research takes a new direction. If you missed the memorable takeoff, view the archived stream below. The actual shuttle launch is around the 18:00 mark.
We recommend you watch the whole thing, since there are some really interesting facts to learn about the space shuttle itself, but if you don't have the time, learn a little more about what goes into building a shuttle as powerful as Atlantis below.
- Atlantis's exterior is made of 24,182 thermal tiles, 161 of which are replacement tiles necessary after damage caused by previous flights.
- Tiles are made of a heat-resistant quartz fabric with aluminum batting inside.
- The black tiles on the shuttle's underbelly will see heat of up to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two more Atlantis facts after the break.
- The white tiles are made of two varieties, one that can withstand 1,200-degree heat and one that can withstand 700-degree heat.
- The nose of the shuttle is made from a material called carbon fibre-reinforced carbon (aka carbon-carbon), which is also used in the brake systems of Formula One cars.