Although the two are very regularly confused, a rocket and a space shuttle are actually very different things, but so can the words themselves, and this is what confuses many of us when it comes to knowing the difference between the two.
The word rocket can mean several things. When a lot of people hear the word, they think of a long thin vehicle that is responsible for carrying things into space. The word rocket is also commonly used to describe a type of engine, and the word can also be used to describe a machine or vehicle that actually uses that specific engine.
Rockets burn fuel, and when the fuel burns, it turns into gas. That gas is then pushed out of the back of the vehicle, causing it to move forwards, or upwards, depending on how to rocket is placed. Years ago, rockets were used as the vessel that would carry men into orbit, but nowadays, rockets are mostly used to launch vehicles into space. Now, NASA uses rockets to launch things such as satellites and probes to other worlds, the rockets never go into orbit, they simply carry the shuttle or satellite high into the
sky to launch it and then comes straight back down again.
Space shuttles are very different. As opposed to being created to help take a vessel into space like the rocket, space shuttles are the vessel. Space shuttles were created to take astronauts and cargo into orbit, and the first ever space shuttle flight took place in 1981.
Although most space shuttles have their own way of getting off the ground, a rocket like engine is used in order to launch a space shuttle into the air. Something called 'rocket boosters' are attached to a space shuttle and burn for a few minutes to help lift the shuttle upwards, and then they fall from the vehicle and drop into the ocean.