Authentic voices. Remarkable stories. AOL On Originals showcase the passions that make the world a more interesting place.
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Learn about what it is like to be an astronaut, from preparation for the launch until returning back to earth.
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The odyssey of a mission about the shuttle begins about a year before launch when individual astronauts are assigned to a crew for a specific flight. From then on, it’s nonstop preparation all the way to the launch pad. Finally, the moment they’ve waited a lifetime for arrives. At T-6 seconds, the orbiters three main engines ignite unleashing enough thrust to power 7 ½ 747 Jumbo Jets.
Powerful turbo pumps begin flowing fuel to the engines at a rate that would empty an Olympic swimming pool in 25 seconds. The main engines are soon joined by the solid rocket boosters, adding a further 44 million horsepower and by the time the shuttle clears the tower, it’s already traveling at more than 100 miles per hour. As it accelerates off the hill, it’s generating more power than 23 Hoover dams and in a matter of minutes, the shuttle and its crew of astronauts will be in space.
Once in orbit, the long months of preparation are put to use in work days that average as many as 16 hours. As filled with scientific experiments, medical research, environmental and atmospheric studies and the least goes on. Some crews will deploy multimillion satellites while others may leave the spacecraft to rescue one. There are also more mundane chores to perform such as housekeeping and meal preparation. But the time in space is not all work, it’s also time for the unique recreational opportunities found only in space. All are just taking the spectacular beauty at the moment.
There’s no denying that a ride on the shuttle is the—in the house and what goes up must come down and the same is true of the shuttle. After a journey of more than a million miles, each astronaut returns to earth with unforgettable memories and are looking forward to his or her next trip in the space as the dream of reaching for the stars lives on.