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End of the Shuttle Era

The last shuttle launch is today, at 2:50PM. I really wanted to go see one of these launch in person, and was thinking about going to the last one. But it is not to be, and given they are expecting up to half a million people to attend the last launch, I don’t think I’d get anywhere near it without camping out.

Every generation has one of those “where were you” moments. For my parents, it was the assassination of President Kennedy. For mine, it’s where you were when the Challenger exploded. I regularly watched launches when I was a kid, but I’ve paid scant attention to launches since. I suppose it’s only fitting the last one almost got by without me thinking about it.

I don’t mourn the end of the shuttle program. It’s been a boondoggle, and I think NASA’s current policy of encouraging private carriers is the only way we’re going to become a spacefaring┬ácivilization. People will go to space when there’s money in it, and will figure out how to do it cheaply. Our manned space program has wasted decades since the end of Apollo. When I was a kid, I thought I’d see men walking on Mars in my lifetime. I think that’s unlikely, and it’s a bit sad that if I do see it, that man will likely be Chinese.

3 Responses to “End of the Shuttle Era”

  1. Well, part of the reason the shuttle was a boondoggle was the compromises forced on it by congress (things like it was supposed to have a solid heat shield and not tiles). And, replacements were supposed to be have been implemented well before now. We should have already developed single stage to orbit and suborbital craft. But, to many people have had a shortsighted focus.

  2. Jake says:

    The last shuttle launch is today, at 2:50PM.

    I hate to say it, but you missed it. They lifted off at 1057 hrs EDT, and are already in orbit.

    We never should have let the program get to the point of retirement without having a replacement in place and ready to go. Politics sucks.

    Hopefully, private enterprises will step up to fill the gap, and we won’t have to rely on the Russians for manned flights for too long.

  3. Andy B. says:

    I was involved a bit with the private space programs 20+ years ago, and my perception was that the feds provided enough “help” for them, to make and keep them dependent, and then steer them to oblivion. I worked with men who had been genuine pioneers of things like recovery satellite technology, who were goldmines of esoteric knowledge about spacecraft, who should have contributed to rapid progress of private space flight. But after very brief flurries of celebrity, they found themselves retired and without an industry. I hate to think how much technology developed in the 1960s and 1970s has now in fact been lost, in some cases, having died with the men who developed it.

    Yeah, politics.

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