Facts and World Records: Space Shuttles III

Space shuttles carry various crewmembers and other objects into space. In this article, you will learn about some of the interesting records set by crew, payloads, and other items that have traveled aboard a space shuttle.

Heaviest Payload Launched

Space shuttles have been used to transport satellites into space. The heaviest payload that a shuttle has experienced is the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched by Columbia on July 23, 1999. The satellite was the heaviest that had ever been launched by a space shuttle with a mass of 50,161 pounds.

Most People on a Spacewalk

Endeavour went on its first flight on May 7, 1992 with a goal of repairing the Intelsat VI satellite that was having issues. However, getting a hold of the satellite was not as easy as expected and it wasn’t until Pierre Thuot, Richard Thieb, and Thomas Akers (all from the United States) performed a spacewalk to reel in the Intelsat VI by hand. While the spacewalk occurred, mission commander Daniel Brandenstein (of the U.S.) placed Endeavour within a few feet of the satellite. This is the only time in history that three people walked in space at the same time.

Largest Shuttle Crew

Eight astronauts were aboard the Challenger on a shuttle mission that took place on October 30, 1985 , making it the largest crew to date. On this flight, the mission was to transport the West German Spacelab D-1 laboratory. The crew was in space for 7 days 44 minutes 51 seconds.

Longest Shuttle Flight

A crew of five embarked on what would become the longest shuttle flight in history on November 19, 1996. The Columbia and its crew were in space for the STS-80 mission for 17 days 15 hours 53 minutes 26 seconds.

The Space Shuttle Discovery  

Thanks to two well-known sailing ships, the space shuttle Discovery received its name. Henry Hudson manned the first ship named Discovery in 1610 to 1611 as he searched for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The other ship of the same name belonged to James Cook and was the vessel he used when he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.

In the space world, Discovery is known as the third of NASA’s fleet of reusable crafts that possessed wings. The space shuttle arrived at Kennedy Space Center in November 1983 and was launched for the first time on August 30, 1984 for a mission called flight 41-D. Aboard the craft, three communications satellites hitched a ride so that the crew could set them off into space. Discovery would go on to deploy the infamous Hubble Space Telescope on mission STS-31 (April 1990) and launched the Ulysses spacecraft for exploration of the sun’s polar regions on mission STS-41 (October 1990).