This might offend some of my readers, but I’m glad the shuttle program has finally ended. Not because of the past, but because of the future.
Being born on the day Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, I’ve always have been tuned-in to America’s space program. My first memories of NASA involve the test shuttle Enterprise making its first successful landing. Since then I remember the numerous successes of the shuttle as well as the tragedies.
It’s been a triumph, but let’s face it, for the past 30 years the shuttle has been doing the routine task of carrying stuff up into orbit with the occasional mission where a person was actually required. In the meantime, it and the ISS have soaked up most of NASA’s budget. Setting aside all the national pride it brings, what has either really done for us?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking the shuttle program. In reality, once we landed a few men on the moon, there was little else to do. We didn’t have the technology to go anywhere else, and there was little reason to continue going to the moon over and over. And so NASA aimed to make orbital spaceflight routine. And guess what? They succeeded.
At best, the shuttle and the ISS can be considered a school where we learned a lot of what it takes to be in space and to construct things in orbit we can’t launch from the ground. But now it’s time to graduate from the school of the routine and aim higher than low earth orbit. It’s time for NASA to get grandiose and do something only NASA can do.
In the end, the departure of the shuttle might do more than what it did in 30 years of orbital trucking. The ending of the shuttle program makes way for the private spaceflight industry to develop and it frees up funding for more worthy projects. My hope is that NASA and the US political system follow-through.
To close, here are some of the better shuttle tributes I ran across… let’s remember fondly, dream huge, and move on quickly.
- The last shuttle reentry photo from the ISS.
- Nat Geo’s best photos of the shuttle.
- Video of Atlantis final landing.
What do you think about the shuttle program ending?