Inside the space shuttle Discovery

If you really like switches, you should have become an astronaut. This 360 degree photo was taken from inside the Space Shuttle Discovery. Over its 27 year lifetime, it has spent over 365 days in space, and travelled a whopping 148 million miles – the equivalent of travelling to the Moon and back 250 times.

Highlights of its illustrious career include launching the Hubble Space telescope in 1990 and docking with the Mir space station in 1994. Discovery has to operate perfectly in extreme environments – High temperatures, solar radiation, the vacuum of space – all require complex machinery. Hence, the huge number of switches, buttons, dials, monitors and joysticks. That’s why it can take up to 12 years of training before a pilot is allowed full control of the shuttle.

Unfortunately, every shuttle is now out of commission, each heading for a different museum to live out the rest of its days. While plans are being carried out in the private sector (such as Virgin Galactic) to introduce a new generation of shuttles to space, they’re unlikely to be as big and complicated as the likes of Discovery and its cohorts.


Charlie is a science writer from London. He tweets @UnpopSci.

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