Before blasting into orbit, Nasa astronauts get a taste of life on-board spacecraft in this hangar-sized room.
The mock-up room at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, contains models of Nasa and its partners' spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle seen here. Among the models are the International Space Station and the Orion craft that will carry Nasa astronauts after the shuttle is retired.
Nasa uses the facility to train crew to navigate the spacecraft, carry out emergency drills and study the spacecraft's structure so that they will be able to carry out maintenance work.
As part of the training, astronauts also learn to access computers on board the spacecraft in case they need to replace hardware.
Johnson Space Center has been home to mission control for Nasa space missions for more than 40 years, as ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com discovered during this tour of mission control through the ages.
This is the dashboard in the cockpit of the Space Shuttle model.
The dashboard here is a mock-up, with pictures of the various displays and dummy switches, knobs and sticks inside the shuttle cockpit.
Astronauts learn to fly the shuttle using a computer simulator, situated elsewhere at Johnson Space Center, which includes screens that replicate cockpit displays and views of outer space through the shuttle windows.
Since the shuttle programme was launched in the 1970s, the craft has only undergone a single major avionics computer systems upgrade.
Nasa has launched six Space Shuttles to date, three of which — Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour — survive as space-faring vehicles today.
The windows in the rear of the cockpit allow the astronauts to look back into the shuttle's payload bay, the large storage area where the shuttle carries cargo for its mission.
From here the crew can control the shuttle's robotic arm and manipulate cargo in the bay.
The shuttle can also be piloted from the rear, allowing the crew to use the windows to manoeuvre the shuttle into position when it is docking with the International Space Station (ISS).
Nasa's shuttles have played a vital role in the construction of the ISS, carrying many of the modules used to build the station into orbit and ferrying crew.
For more on this ZDNet UK-selected story, see Photos: Inside Nasa's Space Shuttle and the International Space Station on silicon.com.