America's space shuttles are breathtaking, brilliant and dangerous. And now, they're about to stop flying — the very last launch is set for July 8. ¶ Which gives us one final chance for our own quirky celebration of obscure space shuttle information. So please try our first, last and admittedly odd Space Shuttle Trivia Challenge.
1. When you launch spaceships from the giant swamp otherwise known as Florida, you're going to deal with some critters. Which of these precautions has NASA used to keep shuttles and astronauts safe?
A. Rounding up dozens of vultures to cage them so shuttles won't blast into buzzards.
B. Removing stray alligators from the shuttle landing strip prior to each landing.
C. Blaring warning sirens to scare away bats, birds and other creatures.
D. All of the above.
2. This picture shows:
A. A scene deleted from the movie Red Dawn.
B. A little-known Soviet spacecraft, eerily similar to American space shuttles, which launched, orbited and returned to Earth.
C. An early Internet hoax that made it onto two network news shows and the New York Times in 1997.
D. One more thing your cousin rigged up in the garage.
3. Who didn't fly on a space shuttle?
A. Saudi Arabian prince.
B. Former CNN reporter Miles O'Brien.
C. A 77-year-old man.
D. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
4. Bursting with confidence, NASA once predicted space shuttles would launch 500 times in the decade following the first launch in 1981. The actual number of space shuttle flights in three decades since 1981 is:
D. None. Like moon landings, the launches were all staged.
5. After re-entering Earth's atmosphere, the space shuttle's main engines burn what kind of fuel?
A. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the same mixture used during launch.
C. A potent mixture of Red Bull and Starbucks Doubleshot.
D. None of the above.
6. Which one of these was not launched into orbit aboard Discovery?
A. The Hubble Space Telescope, in 1990.
B. Anduril, a sword used in the Lord of the Rings movies, in October 2007.
C. A Buzz Lightyear doll, in 2009.
D. Cartoon drawings of "Dogie the Doggie," in 2010.
7. Which of these is true?
A. Although space shuttles almost always launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Columbia launched twice during the early 1980s from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
B. In addition to flying NASA astronauts, space shuttles also have launched with astronauts from the European Space Agency, the Japanese space agency, Starfleet Command, the Trade Federation and the Canadian Space Agency.
C. In a sign that anyone's job can be automated, NASA is developing a "robonaut" to handle various tasks.
D. Shuttle Atlantis will be turned into an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.
8. Which of these is false?
A. In orbit, astronauts see a sunrise or sunset about every two hours.
B. At one point during launches, the rate of space shuttle acceleration actually slows, to prevent vibrations from disintegrating the spacecraft.
C. The two solid-rocket boosters on the space shuttle are fished out of the sea after each launch, and re-used.
D. The shuttles' liquid hydrogen fuel is kept at 423 degrees below zero, and the liquid oxygen is 298 degrees below zero.
1: D. 2: B. It was called the Buran and flew one time, unmanned. 3: B, but O'Brien came closer than any other U.S. journalist, having forged an agreement with NASA to fly aboard a shuttle. The deal was scuttled after the Columbia accident. The 77-year-old who did fly was John Glenn. 4: A, and next month's launch will make 135. 5: D. The main engines are not used during re-entry. Instead, the shuttle glides down to Earth. 6: B. But during that mission, the cargo did include a light saber used in the movie Return of the Jedi. 7: C. A version is aboard the International Space Station. 8: A. They actually see a sunrise or sunset about every 45 minutes.
0-2: You've been napping since the Apollo program. 3-5: Not bad for an Earthling. 6-8: Honorary rocket scientist.