Friday, July 08, 2011

End of an Era

The Shuttle Program comes to an end with this weekends final launch.  This makes me sad.  The shuttle program has not been the only space program in my life time, but it is the only one that I remember and it is what I think of when I think of space flight. 

In a weird cold war reversal, we are now going to be catching lifts with Russians on their flights.  This is the first time since the program has started that we will not be launching our own rockets into space.  We currently have no replacement for the Space Shuttle and I don't even think a concensus has been reached for the replacement at the design stage.  In fact, a vast majority of those working in the space program have been laid off.  With budget woes, our space faring days may be over with this final launch of the Atlantis. 

For the first time since the start of space travel, it looks as though the United States will not be leading the way in space exploration.  The future is passing us by as we lose our will to search space.  Make no mistake, this weekends launch is a sad day for the space program and a sad day for space exploration.  If you are from the U.S. it is a sad day for us as well.  For science fiction fans, it is a sad day indeed.  Instead of moving into the future we have given up. 

Fare the well space shuttle, I only wish you were retiring because some young whipper snapper was replacing you, but alas your position is being phased out. 


GeoffN. said...

I feel like the end of the shuttle era is being miscategorized. Yes, NASA does not have a currently flying spacecraft for transporting humans, but nobody seems to be mentioning that there was a 6 year gap between Apollo Soyuz and the first shuttle launch, which was NASA's last big transition.

During this transition, the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDEV) is already in flight test mode. SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which is a major American contender to replace the shuttle as a low-earth orbit spacecraft has already orbited the earth on an unmanned test flight.

Meanwhile, NASA is not ceasing its operation. They continue to launch rockets, just not with people on them. They are 1 month away from launching the Juno orbiter towards Jupiter.

NASA isn't ending, American missions to low earth orbit aren't ending, only the shuttle is ending. Is it sad? Yes, but it completed its primary mission of completing the ISS and now NASA is looking to the next step, which is to go places that the shuttle could never go.

The biggest thing that makes me nervous is the funding. All space buffs should be terrified of the budget wrangling going on in DC, because NASA is a low-hanging fruit for the axe. However, if NASA weathers the budget storm, this is not an end, but a metamorphosis.

Budd said...

The budget situation is the most worrisome. I know there is an attempt to transition some things to commercial space craft, and I do think this is the future of space exploration, but this isn't an economy that can support a private space exploration company.

Pat Tillett said...

My problem is simple. We're spending billions trying to be the world's policeman and at the same time hitchhiking for rides...
I know that NASA is still alive and somewhat well, but I just don't like what's happening.

DEZMOND said...

it's interesting that outside USA, Russia is considered the leading space explorer, not USA.

The Angry Lurker said...

Money will be an issue I'm afraid in future.

M Pax said...

Isn't it sad? Sniff. Not just for sci-fi, but for the quest to know what's out there.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's sad that there will be no more space shuttle launches.
However, the privatizing of space flight has begun. Private companies, not our government, will fund those projects. The next ten years will be interesting!