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 civilization. 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.