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Thursday, July 21, 2011

End of the Space Shuttle program

The orbiter Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning, at 5:57 a.m.

And so, after 135 missions that began on April 12th 1981, the Space Shuttle program - a system that began to be engineered in the late Sixties - has come to an end. So too apparently has the United States' manned space endeavors: NASA has no crew-capable vehicles anywhere close to near-future use (the Orion system has been scrapped because of budgetary cutbacks). For now the International Space Station is going to have to be serviced by Soviet-era Soyuz craft: a design that has been flying into space since our own Apollo program.

Well, at least private enterprise is beginning to seriously engage in spaceflight. That is where there's going to be a future in manned space exploration. There is still a passion for space: it just needs to be matched with equal zeal and funding capability... and government can't do that anymore like it could in the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

But today, I don't wish to lament what many others have already done so and with greater eloquence. The Atlantis has come home. The Space Shuttle has accomplished its mission.

And that is worth honoring no matter how one looks at it.


Brian Fesperman said...

It's truly sad to see this program come to an end. At least we still have the legacy that it provided. We've been along for the ride, with its ups and (unfortunate) downs.

My understanding is that NASA will ride along with the Russians until the private space industry takes off, then they will contract with them. NASA has provided several substantial grants to various companies to assist in the development. That said, I think I agree with this approach... Let private industry do the work and take on much of the development.
They've (pardon the pun) taxed the Federal budget system so much, they truly need to focus on sweeping the floors... But that's another discussion for another day. :-)