Explore Space Shuttle Discovery's flight deck

See the spacecraft's command center up close in this exclusive National Geographic gigapan.

PHOTO: Jon Brack - National Geographic.






1. The "Bob" Switch

This unusual-looking switch controls the nose wheel steering and has a piece of plastic tubing attached to simply make it easier to trigger. During the maiden voyage of Atlantis in October, 1985, commander Karol J. Bobko found the thick gloves of his pressurized suit made it challenging to quickly throw the switch during landing. This piece of tubing was both playfully and helpfully installed by those processing the shuttle after the mission. Its tradition has carried over and it is present in all three orbiters, affectionately known as the "Bob" switch, for its namesake commander.

2. Explosive Bolts

Window Number 7 is one of the two main overhead windows in the flight deck of the space shuttle. This exposed section shows work being done to remove pyrotechnic bolts from around the windows that were in place to jettison the window so the crew could escape if there was a problem after landing.

3. Russian Panel

Different space agencies have contributed components to the space shuttle throughout the program's history from the Canadarm to the European Space Agency's Spacelab. This particular panel's unusual look and feel is due to being contributed by the Russian Federal Space Agency, and unfortunately, the look wasn't the only thing not to match. Certain components didn't comply with the orbiter's systems, so NASA had to find some workarounds to make this system function.

4. SRB and ET Separation Switches

These are the separation switches to detach the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and External Tank (ET) from the space shuttle during launch. The SRBs provided about 83% of thrust for the shuttle during launch and were reused and the ET provided the fuel for the shuttle's main engines and burned up after being jettisoned.

5. Abort Knob

The abort knob sits on the commander's side of the spacecraft and sets the shuttle to one of three abort modes. The different settings include: Return to Launch Site (RTLS), Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL), and Abort to Orbit (ATO). This knob was never turned on Discovery and has only been used once in shuttle history with an earlier flight of Challenger in July 1985, STS 51-F, aborting to a lower than planned orbit and then continuing its planned mission.

COPY: Susan Poulton - National Geographic.