Solving Space: Happy 5th Anniversary, Independence Plaza!

Five years ago, Independence Plaza presented by Boeing opened as a permanent exhibit here at Space Center Houston!

This international landmark offers an experience like nothing else in the world: visitors can enter the shuttle replica Independence, mounted on top of the historic and original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft, and then explore the giant plane. The multiple exhibits in Independence Plaza grant a rare glimpse into the historic shuttle era and describe its impact on current and future exploration.

As part of our celebration, we created the Solving Space puzzle (above) for you to unscramble!

Learn Before You Go

Enjoy these fast facts that are good to know about the space shuttle era at NASA:

  • The space shuttle was 184 feet, and the shuttle orbiter was 122 feet.
  • The shuttle wingspan was 78 feet.
  • The payload bay was 60 feet long, 15 foot diameter. That is large enough to fit a school bus or 50,000 pounds of payload.
  • The shuttles could carry several satellites into low Earth orbit on one flight, service them and even bring them back for future use. They also routinely carried whole laboratories into orbit for unique experiments.
  • The orbits ranged from 115 to 400 miles.
  • Each space shuttle was named after influential ships of science and exploration.
  • NASA’s space shuttles have traveled 537,114,016, making 20,952 Earth orbits.
  • Enterprise was the first space shuttle, although it never flew in space. It was used to test critical phases of landing and other aspects of shuttle preparations.
  • 8 – Largest crew size, on STS-61A and on STS-71’s return from Russian space station Mir.
  • 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, and 18 seconds – Length of Columbia’s STS-80 flight.
  • 1,320 days, 1 hour, 32 minutes, 44 seconds through 134 flights – Total time in space for all shuttle missions.

Want to learn more? Check out NASA’s Space Shuttle Fact Sheet, or better yet, watch the video below and see inside shuttle replica Independence when you visit Space Center Houston!

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