How the Space Shuttle Atlantis Changed Space Exploration

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From launching probes to ferrying experiment racks to the ISS, the Space Shuttle Atlantis has left quite the legacy on space exploration and scientific research.

Bd_Tmprd, Harrison Mills, Jeffrey Mckishen, James Knight, Christoph Schwanke, Jacob, Matt Curls, Sam Buck, Christopher R Boucher, Eric Jensen, Lehel Kovacs, Adam Brainard, Greg, Ash, Sam Lutfi, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, Charles Southerland, charles george, Alex Hackman, Chris Peters, Kevin Bealer

  1. Scott Anderson

    The space shuttle was a terrible mistake that shows what happens when a government makes a spaceship by committee.

    Thank god for Elon Musk.

  2. Steve M

    She looks like a mom now
    . Blimpin out a wee bit
    She smiles even when nothing calls for it.. like she talks to her toddler

  3. Jansen Art

    The Space Transport System was a terrible program and I do not understand why people romanticize it.

    Coming on the heels of Apollo, a time when we were sending thruples of men to the moon so often (every six months) that it became routine and boring, we followed it up with the STS program, aka the Space Shuttle. The promises made by its proponents were that it would be almost completely reusable, thus reducing costs and be able to effect turnarounds in weeks if not days.

    The reality was this:

    It was 78 tonnes of dead glider mass that needed to be hauled, every single flight, from ground to low Earth Orbit. 78 tonnes that could’ve been payload on every other launch system. Modern space launches for satellites and even NASA’s own robotic Mars missions go up on conventional multi-stage rockets with payload fairings at a fraction of the cost for launching 7 people and a glider into orbit. Arguably, having the STS launch certain payloads prevented us from getting to Mars sooner than we are.

    It not only slowed down space exploration, but actually reversed it in the time it was operational: Apollo was taking us to the moon, but not only did the shuttle never leave the atmosphere (you can orbit in the atmosphere above about 100km, the exosphere stops at 10,000km), the payloads it brought were stuck in atmosphere too, including the International Space Station. To this day, the last time a human was publicly known to have left atmosphere was 1972; in the lifetimes of most of the people reading this, no human has ever gone above the exosphere.

    Because the center of mass of the STS was so awkward and so variable, its main engines had to both be canted off at an angle (the main engine and the booster engines have a relative angle of thrust of about 30°), and have an extremely high gimbal, both of which cost a LOT of fuel and mass and thus ΔV.

    The main engine was also functionally useless after it made orbit (the orbiter was deorbited by separate engines), it only existing to launch another mission in 3 months. Each launch cost more than an Apollo launch. In addition to that, the turnaround maintenance (87 days instead of the promised 160 hours) ended up generating so much overtime and requiring so many replacement parts that the average cost of each mission plus recovery totaled to about $1.5 billion. Apollo, by contrast, cost no more than $190 million per launch (about half a billion in 1980s dollars).

    Because of all the dead glider mass, the Shuttle never actually made it outside the atmosphere (compare this to Apollo, which brought men to the moon and back). Only once did it ever make it into the exosphere (the HST launch). Because of this, everything it put into the hold of the STS, including the International Space station, is on a decaying orbital trajectory due to the interaction with the atmosphere.

    Because they wanted the shuttle’s own engines to bring it to orbit, (so the main launch engines could be recovered as part of the glider) the orbiter literally had to be strapped on the side of its boosters and fuel tank. Both shuttle disasters (an SRB failure crashing into the orbiter for Challenger, a chunk of main fuel tank insulation destroying fragile heat shield tiles on the wing of Colombia) would’ve been prevented if it weren’t for the fact that it wasn’t constantly in danger from both the SRBs and the fuel tank.

    It’s the only long-term aviation project that lost 1.4% of all its missions to fatal disasters, so probably most important of all, it also caused the death of two entire crews (14 souls). So,

    I don’t get why people like the Space Shuttle. It was an expensive, under-preforming death trap that effectively stopped space exploration (in favor of microgravity science) while it was active.

  4. Ryan Harper


  5. SN CY

    I wonder if the US as a whole will ever enter the 20th century, at least in regards to the measurement system ;)

  6. The Devil

    Eight fingers slip inside,
    I tug gently.
    Shadows scatter open wide,
    🤜🌘🌒🤛 goatse.

  7. Binarokaro

    I hope the rest of America will catch up to NASA’s example by converting to the metric system too

  8. infinitecanadian

    Just because someone is using Imperial measurements, doesn’t make them stupid. Quit treating them like they are.

  9. RicardoA BH

    NASA graduated to base 10! lol
    Just to funny

  10. Massimo O'Kissed

    The Space Shuttle was a series of bad ideas from the beginning,
    much like the SLS.

  11. Anonymous Freak

    “…NASA entered the 20th century!” …just in time for the 21st century. :-D

  12. romero1337

    It wouldve been nice to hear the names of the crew members who flew the Atlantis mission’s.

  13. Osmosis Jones

    Would vibrating the walls sending microwave through the walls pushing atom of ship it self or the flow of electrons on walls wouldn’t that make it easier conventional rockets.
    I have an idea for panels within on a wheel within a fluid within pipes with in the walls. If much of a ships mass is fluid . then moving the fluid would move the mass

  14. Gordon Chin

    The space shuttle program changed space exploration by ending it.

  15. Carlos_A_M


  16. Semaj_502

    Ayy I’m early for once!

  17. Ibadullah Tahir

    i love scishoowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  18. Avery the Cuban-American

    SpongeBob’s discovery of Atlantis changed ocean exploration

  19. MontanaMetalhead

    Base 10 isnt progress. Freedom units make you better at math.

  20. Natasha S

    Woohoo 5th comment

  21. Brianly Gaming

    Hi 👋from Philippines

  22. Chris2008

    NASA is using the metric system? Wow!

  23. Holofish

    I am NOT a merry man!!

  24. Pulkit Mohta

    All hail metric!

  25. Dominik Janiec

    great story!

  26. Dragon King

    More of refurbishable than reusable.

  27. Michael Brantley

    So how many shuttles were there? Atlantis, discovery, endeavour, enterprise, challenger, columbia….I feel like I’m missing some still,

  28. mikewillchambers

    Just the luck of the schedule right? Not as if they held all these important missions for that particular orbiter

  29. George D

    Couldn’t that probe possibly be the cause of the elements we are seeing in Venus now?

  30. Bryan Skuzenski

    The Unity module was launched by the greatest shuttle of all, Endeavour, not Discovery.

  31. Валентин Костюк

    Good Russian names pronunciation!

  32. denton feather

    I love this channel!

  33. Richard Muise

    The shuttles did not launch all the parts to make ISS. The majority I think, but not all the parts.

  34. Agung Seno

    Metric… Like any other space agency use…

  35. MaggsDroid

    I’d you ever get the chance to see a space shuttle, take it. Walking around the shuttle at the air and space museum in Chantilly va is simply breathtaking.

  36. infinitecanadian

    They should have made a replacement before stopping the programme.

  37. Joseph Worrall

    NCC-1701 USS Enterprise is the only ship worth anything

  38. Z Z

    I <3 Caitlin

  39. Jansen Art

    Everything launched by the Space Shuttle could have been launched via conventional rockets inside of fairings, or by Apollo-like pods.

  40. HadesXY

    No borders in space. Lets hope we keep it that way

  41. jmackmcneill

    So… it changed space exploration by forcing metric on NASA? …earthshaking development I know

  42. Doctor Design

    Good to see you back Caitlin :)

  43. acasc cseea

    Ah, freedom units

  44. Trung Hung Pham

    Nice MasterClass advertisement.

  45. Josh Keating

    Who took these photos? I get some of them could be done by EVA’s or attached cameras, but a couple of these (the Mir/Atlantis photo, was taken from a good distance away.

  46. Dan Gray

    Um, 1975. Apollo-Soyuz. Do you research, or just ask Alexa?

  47. Robert Evans

    Finally, the US of A grew up and worked in metric for real.

  48. Bret Copeland

    Minor correction: Unity was delivered by Endeavour (on STS-88), not Discovery.

  49. Joy L

    I love learning new things about STS!

  50. Daniel Leca

    The space shuttle was an engineering marvel in most aspects… too bad it was a death trap and 14 wonderful astronauts had to pay for it…

  51. TheFourthWinchester

    I didn’t know Russia was so integral to USA’s space tech development.

  52. T. Velde

    Loved to see Atlantis at Kennedy Space Visitors Center last year, great to know it’s still “flying”, sort of. Hanging there at a 43.21 degree angle (countdown sequence reference). Really impressive to see her up close and even more to realise it went to space and back that many times.

  53. Raab Addler

    Nasa: I’m sorry we only use Moon units here

  54. DivideByZeroGetCake

    One of the most amazing things about Atlantis is after a long career changing science, you can go see it at the Kennedy Space Center, hanging there for you to experience in person! I can’t wait to go see Atlantis again!

  55. Make Racists Afraid Again

    A couple years before the first shuttle launched I was able to tour one. Well… the wooden mock-up.
    My Mom worked for Rockwell.

  56. PamdaDev

    Caitlin’s happy and jolly work always brightens my day. Thanks SciShow

  57. New Message

    But…. Atlantis is in the OTHER direction! * points at the ocean floor *

    No wonder they never found it.

  58. Anish Mathias

    Her smile and the fun attitude made my day. Thank u scishow

  59. otakuman706

    I loved the Kennedy Space Center, I went there a couple of times when I was younger.
    I even got to see one of the last 3 or so launches, and I was able to get a bit of a more ‘personal’ tour on one occasion.
    Seeing the launch from as close as we were–about as close as civilians could legally be anyway- was absolutely fantastic.
    On that same trip I got to see an older nuclear power sub coming in to Port, and as they passed the area where the group of us (and a few others of unknown affiliation had gathered) and a couple waved and saluted to the group. That was also a pretty cool site but not KSC/shuttle scale 😂

    Kinda the with the drive home through, an area here (Florida) called alligator alley. Part of the way back we got stuck as a guy was herding his cows across the road to a fresher area. Took like 15 minutes, so many cows. Though, being honest this was the still interesting to me as I’d never really been around a cow herd prior, but still it held no candle to witnessing the shuttle.

  60. Ethan Blanke

    Oh I love WORF, as a Star Trek fan and a space enthusiast that warms my heart

  61. Suicidal_Camo_Eisberg

    hmm, great Episode as always, but the shuttles didn’t launch every ISS Module and Unity was also not the first. The first one was Zarya launched on a Russian Proton rocket

  62. SaltpeterTaffy


    “designed to have no glare”

    I hope someone was fired for this hideous mismatch.

  63. cortos _

    This is cool. I knew about Mir and the ISS but I didn’t know NASA had actually had any contact with Mir. It’s great to see that as little as 3 years after the Soviet Union fell that we were already cooperating with Roscosmos in some degree.
    It’s even cooler to see that Mir re configured some of itself so that a shuttle could dock with it.

  64. Lucy Tycho

    Minor correction, the Shuttle program did not deliver all the parts for the ISS, it only delivered parts for the US Orbital Segment (USOS, which includes ESA and JAXA components too). The Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) parts were launched on Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets.
    Also, Zarya, the module docked behind Unity, was actually the first one launched.

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