News FocusScience on the Shuttle

The Highs and Lows of Shuttle Science

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Science  01 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6038, pp. 30-33
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6038.30

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The contributions of the shuttle to science have come in many flavors and at an irregular pace. Many shuttle missions that were devoted to nonscientific tasks also carried small experiments on board. More recently, the shuttle's primary focus has been building the space station, a facility that, among its many purposes, will carry out scientific research. To tease out the scientific contributions of the shuttle, Science has grouped the program's 134 missions into five categories. Among science missions, the exploration of microgravity leads the way in terms of frequency. In second place are major observations of Earth or the heavens, followed by the launching of large scientific instruments, repairs and upgrades to the Hubble telescope, and research on the effects of the external space environment.