Wing of a Space Shuttle, 1980s.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Close up of a wing of a Shuttle Orbiter. This clearly shows the heat-resistant silica tiles, which protect the orbiter from extreme temperatures of more than 2300 degrees Fahrenheit (F) as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. The Space Shuttle, the world's first partially reusable launch vehicle, first flew on 12th April 1981 and has been used for all America's manned space misions ever since. It normally carries a crew of five to seven astronauts and can lift a payload of some 25,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The Orbiter and the solid fuel boosters are recovered and reused.