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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

NASA unveils final Space Shuttle flight schedule

There are ten more missions for the Space Shuttle fleet, as NASA has revealed the final slate of missions before the system is retired, after what will be 29 years of service. Endeavour is set to be the last one that will launch, with a mission scheduled for May 31, 2010 to bring spare parts to the International Space Station.

After Endeavour lands, NASA plans to begin using the new Ares launch vehicle (currently in preparation for testing), which will be carrying the Orion crew module. In the meantime, the station will be serviced by Japanese, ESA and Russian craft for supplies. Including the Soyuz, which it's safe to say has gained far more respect in recent years than it ever had before in its long and admirable history... which predates the American-made Space Shuttle by fifteen years!

I've got mixed feelings about seeing the Space Shuttle program retired. On one hand, it fulfilled the role that it was meant to play. But then, I wonder if maybe we came to rely on the Space Shuttle too much, and got lulled into complacency with it. It's like this: sending men and women into low-Earth orbit is always going to be a thrilling albeit risky venture. But it's not real manned space exploration. The last time we could say that we did that was Apollo 17 in 1972: the last time man walked on the Moon.

Maybe going back to the basics with Ares and Orion will be a better thing than we yet realize.


qemuel said...

Hear, hear.

Anonymous said...

Our country is going to be broke in the 2010's anyway. (With the combined financial crisis, social security, medicaid, federal deficit, illegal immigrants etc).

America's days as a superpower are rapidly ending. Our space program will see its demise along with the rest of our imperial ambitions.

Chris Knight said...

We would have more money for nice things like space exploration if we cut taxes, cut spending, and quit poking our noses in places where we don't belong.

I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. But I will hold out hope.

In the meantime, the private sector is beginning to do some amazing things with its own aerospace efforts. Maybe it's time for government to get out of the space business entirely.