The end of the shuttle era

July 21, 2011 at 11:57 am (News) ()

The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down this morning. It’s the finale to the shuttle program at NASA – some people will be out of work as early as tomorrow. I’m sure it’s a severely emotional day at the Kennedy Space Centre today.

I totally understand the need to cut down on costs by ending the program. The U.S. has loads of debt, and so does NASA, while the shuttle is becoming dated. The Russians still have an active and relevant program that other astronauts can join to return to the International Space Station.

But the U.S., after beating everyone else to the moon and leading space exploration for decades, no longer has a craft to put men into orbit. They have plans and they have vision, but so far no vehicle to make those dreams a reality. It’s a little depressing. I spoke to an astronaut with a close connection to Cornwall last week, and he said the gap in programs will create positive pressure to develop a new craft. It’s pretty cool that he’ll be involved in that project. Yet other spacemen and women have expressed serious frustration with the shuttles’ retirements and the importance of continued exploration.

I love space, and the whole idea of traveling beyond our world. I practically have NASA’s website on my favourites list, and I catch as much live coverage of their missions as I can. I’m personally disappointed that the push for space exploration has lessened, though it’s good to see there are companies already competing to design the next vehicle.

I’m pumped that Canadian Chris Hatfield will soon take command of the space station for a rotation, continuing our nation’s involvement in discovery and expansion beyond our atmosphere. I actually hope that the gap in the U.S. program will allow Canada’s technologies to take the lead in creating new crafts and launch future missions.

The inspiration and awe that is birthed from those trips is irreplacable.

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