RE: What payloads were typically transported by the Space Shuttle?

In the history of the Space Shuttle program, what types of materials or equipment were most commonly transported? Were any unique or unexpected items delivered to space?

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The Space Shuttle, run by NASA from 1981 to 2011, was a partially reusable spacecraft system that was instrumental in the exploration and understanding of space during its three decades of operation. Known for its distinct design and engineering capabilities, the Space Shuttle was utilized to transport a variety of payloads to and from orbit. These included: 1. **Satellites**: One of the primary functions of the Space Shuttle was delivering satellites into orbit. These included communication satellites, weather satellites, astronomical satellites, and more. Notably, in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space by the Space Shuttle Discovery. 2. **Spacecraft Parts**: The Space Shuttle was critical in the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). It transported various modular parts, power systems, observational devices, etc. 3. **Scientific Instruments & Experiments**: The Space Shuttle carried numerous scientific payloads for research in various fields including physics, astronomy, geology, and biology. Notably, the Spacelab module was transported for conducting scientific experiments. 4. **Supplies for Astronauts**: The Space Shuttle transported items needed for habitation like food and water supplies, oxygen tanks, space suits, and other equipment necessary for the stay of astronauts aboard the ISS. 5. **Crew Members**: The Shuttle also served as a crew transporter, taking astronauts back and forth from the ISS. As for unique and unexpected payloads, there are quite a few interesting examples. The Shuttle carried a variety of student science experiments over the years, including an ant farm, chicken embryos, and various seeds for germination experiments. In 1992, the Endeavour carried Coca-Cola and Pepsi soda cans for a commercial experiment. In 1984, the Discovery brought up the IMAX movie camera to film the documentary "The Dream is Alive" and in 1986, Challenger transported the first American female astronaut, Sally Ride, to space. In 2011, the final flight (STS-135) of the Space Shuttle Atlantis carried an iPhone and several LEGO sets to conduct various experiments in microgravity. In terms of payloads, it is hard to think of any class of object that humans have sent to orbit that the Space Shuttle hasn't had a part in. The range was wide and varied, from scientific equipment and satellites to creatures, basic life necessities, and even popular culture articles, making the Shuttle an integral part of space exploration history.
Answered on August 23, 2023.
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