"Nothing ever built arose to touch the skies unless some man dreamed that it should, some man believed that it could, and some man willed that it must."
- Charles F. Kettering.
How long did it take to assemble a space shuttle? It took five years from contract award to the first flight for Discovery (1979-1984), a Herculean effort with attention to the minutest of detail. A launch is over in seconds, to the spectacle of onlookers, who may or may not realise the amount of time and work it took to get a shuttle into space.
As the Shuttle accelerates, the main engines burn a half-million gallons of liquid propellant provided by the large, orange external fuel tank. The main engines burn liquid hydrogen -- the second coldest liquid on Earth at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 252.8 degrees Celsius) -- and liquid oxygen.
The engines' exhaust is primarily water vapor as the hydrogen and oxygen combine. As they push the Shuttle toward orbit, the engines consume liquid fuel at a rate that would drain an average family swimming pool in under 25 seconds generating over 37 million horsepower. Their turbines spin almost 13 times as fast as an automobile engine spins when it is running at highway speed...
Temperatures in the main engine combustion chamber can reach as high as 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit (3,315.6 degrees Celsius).
Space Shuttle Main Engines.
Space Shuttle Discovery. (Wikipedia)
NASA. Space Shuttle Overview: Discovery (OV-103)
NASA. Space Shuttle Main Engines.