Because the Space Shuttle occasionally has to use alternate landing places, NASA uses two heavily modified 747 aircraft to ferry them around the world. Check out how they mate the shuttle to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft below.

Click "next" to scroll through the steps involved in dropping the giant space shuttle on the even larger cargo jet. Humorously, the technicians painted a note stating "Attach Orbiter Here" with the sarcastic note: "Black Side Down."

The shuttle is towed to the mate-unmate dock.
Photo credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann

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The orbiter is towed into the seven-story mate-unmate dock.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

The shuttle is attached to the lift and prepped.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

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Prep includes inspecting the shuttle and getting it ready for flight. In transit, they're not supposed to encounter turbulence or moisture.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

The rear is covered with a shield to reduce drag.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

The rear of the jet, including the stabilizer, are fixed in place.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

Every inch of the orbiter is carefully investigated and sealed for flight, which is often as low as 10,000 feet to avoid extreme temps.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

The entire shuttle is raised.
Photo Credit: Matt Hartman


Photo Credit: Matt Hartman


Photo Credit: Matt Hartman

Once the orbiter is raised ot the proper height (note, it takes a while) the 747 SCA is towed into place.
Photo credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann

Once the shuttle is properly positioned over the plane it's then dropped onto the special supports.
Photo credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann


Photo credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann

Once the shuttle is connected they tow both back out.
Photo credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann

The shuttle is now ready to take off.

In flight over the desert, they get to do the opposite on the other end to get it off and ready to take off.
Image credit: NASA

To see a time lapse video of this process check out Gizmodo