An Era Ends
Contributed by David
The United States space shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5.56 am after a 13-day mission to the International Space Station. It carried four astronauts: commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
"Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, its place in history secured, the space shuttle pulls into port for the last time, its voyage at an end,"
So announced mission controller Rob Navias.
In future, the ISS will be kept supplied by Russian Soyuz spaceships as well as - possibly - ships from commercial companies such as SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Since the first shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, 355 people from 16 countries made a total of 852 journeys aboard. Between them, the five shuttles traveled more than 542 million miles and hosted more than 2,000 experiments.
Manned spaceflight has spun off a host of inventions and technological advances – things like memory foam, cordless tools, freeze-dried foods, scratch-resistant eyeglasses, joysticks, high performance insulation and firefighting equipment, sophisticated artificial limbs and medical implants.
Skylab gave us smoke detectors. The Apollo missions gave us the Dustbuster along with practical cardiac monitors and telemetry now common in many hospitals. But private companies don’t sink billions into enterprises whose chief payoffs are accidental and unexpected. Nor do they fund such unquantifiables as national pride and exploration for exploration’s sake.
The United States current President lacks genuine interest in science in general and has displayed no imagination regarding a space program. President Obama has mentioned on many occasions he has better uses for billions of the dollars an active space program demands.
BHOs imagination is only useful at creating immense social programs. Expensive programs with little chance of truly succeeding.
The ability to create a vessel that will safely take humans from the surface of the Earth, safely into the hostile environment of space and returning them safely from flight at mach 25 is no small achievement.
ESA, (European Space Agency) has had few grand launches of exploration. China’s space program is still in its infancy and can ride on America’s space coat-tails by accessing the immense amount of research and development that NASA has placed in the public domain.
Even so China’s program sound ambitious, but reality, expenses on a huge scale appear to have humble China from trying to much to fast.
America’s manned space program had its tragic bangs – the Challenger and Columbia catastrophes. But it is dying with a pathetic whimper.
Read more about Atlantis return: