Low Earth Orbit

    Once it reaches orbit, the Space Shuttle catches up with the International Space Station (ISS). The Shuttle has to launch at the right time to catch the ISS. It has to launch in the right direction. When they meet, the two will connect.

    Believe it or not, the ISS is not that far away. If your car could drive straight up, you could go there in about three hours. In fact, the ISS is close enough that you can see it from the ground. On a clear night, it looks like a bright star flying across the sky. If you are lucky, you can see it when the Shuttle is catching up with it. They look like two stars following each other through space!

    If these spacecraft are so close, why is living on them so different? Being in orbit changes everything! The Earth still pulls down on a spacecraft in orbit. So, the spacecraft is always falling towards the ground. But, it doesn't hit the Earth! The Shuttle moves so fast that it doesn't fall down. Instead, it falls around the Earth in a nearly circular orbit. Everything inside is also falling around the planet. Since they are all falling together, it seems like they are floating!