## Infographic: Powering the Space Shuttle

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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How much energy does it take get the space shuttle launched, into orbit, and back to Earth again? This infographic provides facts, stats and data on the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles.

Infographic courtesy of WellHome

Member
July 12, 2011 10:02 PM

Cool! But I’m confused on a couple of counts:

1. Why does it take only the same energy one person consumes in a year to get into orbit and “enough power to run 1 million homes an entire year” to get back down? How do these two compare?

2. Shouldn’t it take a unit of energy and not power to stop a shuttle?

I’m looking forward to whatever replaces the shuttle. It has carried many dreams into space.

Member
WaxyMary
July 12, 2011 11:59 PM
The amount of energy as a unit would be reckoned as horse power if you wished, even as furlongs per fortnight if you cared to use archival terms — it could be expressed as KwH for both the Up and the Down part of the shuttle trip — would you prefer that unit of measure? The use of mental images like saying ‘the Up the gravity ladder’ part takes as much energy as a person uses in a year makes this infographic very personable — and saying it takes 2,000 MW and expressing it as person units or home units makes the point as personally as is possible for the trip ‘Down the gravity ladder’. The energy exchange,… Read more »
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
July 13, 2011 2:02 AM
There is a difference between power and energy. To see this we start with Newton’s second law F = ma. The mass m is in kilograms, and acceleration a is m/s^2 (meter per second squared). So the unit of force is kg m/s^2, which is defined as a Newton (N). Energy is the displacement of a force through a distance E = F?x, where the force moves a mass through some distance ?x. This is a Newton-meter or N m, called a Joule. Power is then the time rate of change for the generation of energy. So this is ?E/?t = F?x/?t = Fv or the displacement of a force by a velocity. I assumed a constant force… Read more »
Member
WaxyMary
July 12, 2011 11:59 PM
The amount of energy as a unit would be reckoned as horse power if you wished, even as furlongs per fortnight if you cared to use archival terms — it could be expressed as KwH for both the Up and the Down part of the shuttle trip — would you prefer that unit of measure? The use of mental images like saying ‘the Up the gravity ladder’ part takes as much energy as a person uses in a year makes this infographic very personable — and saying it takes 2,000 MW and expressing it as person units or home units makes the point as personally as is possible for the trip ‘Down the gravity ladder’. The energy exchange,… Read more »
Guest
squidgeny
July 13, 2011 3:02 PM

I find this infographic rather lacking in scientific rigor!

First it equates two values with different units (power and energy), then it calls a hydrogen molecule an element and even claims it as the most abundant element on Earth – which is simply not true whether you’re counting the entire thing, just the oceans, just the atmosphere or even just a bucket of pure water.

It would also have been nicer had it given more specific figures, such as actual masses rather than a “number of buses” equivalent. But then I suppose it is aimed at kids.

Guest
July 13, 2011 7:53 PM

I stopped after “42 school buses”, in fear that I would stumble upon a “n football fields” measurement

Guest
Kevin Parker
July 13, 2011 7:49 PM

It’s not true that most of the smoke is water vapor from hydrogen-oxygen combustion. The SSME exhaust is practically invisible. The visible exhaust is from the SRBs, and there’s some nasty stuff in that.

Guest
Kevin Parker
July 13, 2011 7:49 PM

It’s not true that most of the smoke is water vapor from hydrogen-oxygen combustion. The SSME exhaust is practically invisible. The visible exhaust is from the SRBs, and there’s some nasty stuff in that.

Guest
July 13, 2011 8:02 PM

pretty graphics (except for the very first depiction of the shuttle that looks like a puffed up kids toy) … silly numbers.

I’d be curious to know if the graphic design artist did the research, not that graphic design artists are only limited to knowing about graphics, I’m just curious.

Guest
July 14, 2011 1:41 AM

I can’t wait to see how we can conserve energy as space travel progresses in the future. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHrBhtNCvgY

Member