Friday, February 26, 2010

Final Countdown for the Space Shuttle

NASA's fleet of Space Shuttles is rapidly approaching its retirement. Four missions remain - after that the United States will have no way to put a man into space. We will have to rent space on Russian rockets if we need to send anyone up.

The three remaining Shuttles are Endeavor, Atlantis, and Discovery. Atlantis will fly the next miission, STS-131, scheduled for liftoff on March 5. Discovery will fly the last mission, STS-134, later this year. With -134, there will have been 134 launches of the Shuttle (and sadly, only 132 landings).

The Shuttle is still a wonder. It is a magnificent sight to behold on liftoff, a loud, visible symbol of our country and its technical expertise. The fleet is long in the tooth. The time for retirement is right, the '70s equipment and technology they are based on need to be put out to pasture. The problem is that there is no replacement available, and the Orion replacement vehicle that was on the drawing board has been cancelled by the Obama Administration.

Retirement of the Shuttles and cancellation of Orion will mean the loss of about 23,000 jobs at and around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to say nothing of the contractors that were going to build Orion and its related projects.

Launch and recovery of the shuttles has become a 'non-news' event. Most Americans don't even know when they are up in orbit. If you count yourself in that category, you might want to make note of the remaining lauches. You have 4 more opportunities to view it live. Many of us will not see another US manned space mission in our lifetimes.
Photos Credit NASA

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