Friday, June 10, 2011

You may never hear, “Take me around the world” again as the hot actress said in the 1979 Bond movie Moonraker. Our space ship is going to the museum. For the past 30 years we had a space program that took men and women into the heights. It is part of America’s proud history but it’s future is unknown. The space shuttle is now history, the end of an era. The future of America’s once proud space program remains up in the air. Yes, there are no concrete plans in the future.
NASA did lots of innovative things. They built space robots, they sent up satellites, they study the oceans but we will always think of NASA and space ships. Rockets , the space shuttle. After 30 years and 135 flights, NASA has decided to close down the space shuttle program. It was unique because it took off like a rocket but landed like a airplane. So, it was reusable.
It had spectacular successes. It took the Hubble telescope into orbit and put the international space station into orbit made possible by its huge cargo space; robotic arm and air lock. It launched the first woman into space and first black astronauts. It was a movie star featured in the movie Armageddon in 1998.
It has also been know for its failures. Originally it was supposed to have flown dozens of times per year and cheaply. Instead, every time it came back, extensive repairs had to be done before it could launch again. It was a hand built machine that was responsible for two major failures; in 1986 the Challenger disaster and in 2003 the destruction of the Columbia. Both missions killed everyone on board.
Good times and bad, the shuttle was a symbol of American technical superiority. It was an icon of a nation looking to the future. Not any more. Funding has stopped and we have to make a new space ship to go further than the moon. To Mars regularly. The Orion capsule is a new design to go farther into space. They hope to build a smaller capsule than the winged vehicle we are so used to seeing.
Kennedy would be fuming in his grave if he knew we were renting space on the Russian Soyuz space craft to go to the space station. AMERICA IS TAKING A RUSSIAN TAXI TO SPACE we totaled our ride. And we’ve been hitching a ride with the Russians for the last two years. NASA is also contraction commercial companies to make a new vehicle. What happened to top secret American designs?
NASA’s goal is to put an astronaut on the surface of Mars by 2030. Meanwhile, nothing is presently scheduled to go up in space again from this country anytime soon. Anyone at NASA is spending time preparing the vehicles for museums. Even craft funded by rich corporations aren’t available anytime soon for any space travel. The commercial vehicles are not ready. The cargo delivery systems are not ready, commercial crew vehicles are several years away from being available for space travel.
According to Scott Pace who used to work for NASA and who now is the Director for space policy for The Space Policy Institute, The Center for International Science and Technology at George Washington University, he is not sure America will send another manned rocket into space. He thinks NASA may just buy commercial launce space. Or NASA may decide to purchase a government owned vehicle. There were 3 shuttles left. The Atlantis for its last launch in July. The Endeavour that just landed. And the Discovery that had its last voyage this past February and is being dismantled for a museum.
The shuttles were a political failure. No one even mentions space exploration in their Campaign speeches anymore. It was a great vehicle that no one wanted to wax and tune up anymore. Maybe if there was tons of gold or oil on the moon we would be traveling first class on a shuttle to the Jetson Hotel this summer.

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