It’s The End Of The Space Shuttle Era

Posted: July 11, 2011 in My Crazy World
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, this past Friday marked a very important day in human history. Friday, July 8, 2011 was the the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. Over one million people gathered in Central Florida to see the historic launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis for STS-135. For those including myself who went to see it live, it was an exhilerating experince. The crowd was filled with both cheers and tears and the shuttle lifted off of Launch Pad 39-A for the last time. They were happy to see the shuttle go, but sad to see the program end.

For 30 years, we’ve all watched the Space Shuttle achieve so much. Of course with so many missions taking place most people found the missions routine. Sure it was great for the first few launches and landings and hearing that “sonic boom.” After that the shuttle became nothing more than back page news. However, the shuttle was much more than just cool launches, spacewalks and satellites. What about the Hubble Space Telescope and the building of the International Space Station currently in low-earth orbit? These are great technological feats carried out by NASA and the Space Shuttle program.

Sadly with all the great moments, there was also tragedy. I’ll never forget when I was at school on January 28, 1986 and the PA announcement was given that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded only 73 seconds after liftoff. Tears had filled the room. I had a few tears myself. Then I saw the terrifying footage of the liftoff and explosion on the news that night with my own eyes. I also remember waking up on February 1, 2003 and see the news of the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrate during re-entry. These were tragic moments for the space program. Almost enough to cripple it, but not completely break it. Shuttles were destroyed and lives were lost, but I knew that NASA would learn from it’s mistakes and come back stronger like they’ve done before. We all know that the show must go on.

NASA has seen many historic moments. Events like the breaking of the sound barrier, the “Space Race” between us and the former Soviet Union, the Mercury astronauts, Gemini, Apollo and the moment when the Eagle landed at The Sea of Tranquility. The words of “One small step for man…one giant leap for mankind” still echo loudly. Now we can add events like the test missions of the Enterprise, the maiden launch of Columbia for STS-1 on April 12, 1981, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the completion of the International Space Station. We can also add Atlantis’ final return to Earth on July 20. That date will also mark the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon.

The big question on everyone’s mind is “Where do we go from here?” and “What’s next?” President Obama’s cancellation of the shuttle program may feel like a stab in the back to some. Money has been cut and jobs have been lost, but there is hope on the horizon. For now, those of us that live on the “Space Coast” will get to see Delta rocket launches along with a few other launches that could help pave the way for what’s next. While this is a plus, the real negative is that they will all be unmanned flights. We must now rely on the Russians for future missions…at least for now.

The President felt that it’s time for NASA to move forward. I highly agree with this. The Space Shuttle program was great, but it’s time to once again go beyond the boundaries of Earth and explore. It’s time to return to the moon and make that epic flight to the red planet Mars. The ending of the Cold War brought an end to the competition between the U.S. and the Russians making things get a little too comfortable for us at home. Now it’s time to use that imagination and think outside of the box to once again create the dream. This way the Star Trek lingo of “Boldly going where no man has gone before” will come to life.

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