Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Still sad.

Check out this awesome time lapse of preparing a Space Shuttle for flight.

Now that you've watched remember this: In less than six months all of this infrastructure, experience, equipment and technology will be decommissioned. How many of the dozens of people in this video will still have jobs once the Shuttle is grounded for good?

The more I think about it the more upset that I get, if there was a viable alternative in place maybe I wouldn't be so pissed but this could very well be the end of NASA's manned flight program. Nearly fifty years of exploration, science and pushing the limits of technology comes to an abrupt end.

To me the Space Shuttle IS space exploration, the only manned flight system that I have known in my life. I remember the horror of watching the Challenger disaster from my grade school class room and the triumph of repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. There was a time in my college years that I had horrible insomnia and I would spent an entire night, sometimes nights on end, watching the live NASA broadcasts of missions in progress. I'll never forget the early morning hours of February 1, 2003. I was playing Mech Assault on XBOX Live when someone in game gasped that the Shuttle had burned up on re-entry. Everyone in game stopped what they were doing and turned on their TVs to watch the news but we all kept the chat going and talked about how sad it was.

While there have been two spectacular failures resulting in the loss of 14 crew members in its service life there have been 132 successful manned flights that have put hundreds of people into space. To put that into perspective there were only eleven manned Apollo missions and of those two were failures with one resulting in the loss of three astronauts. That's a less than 2% failure rate for the Shuttle versus 22% for the Apollo.

The Space Shuttle deserves to have a legacy, it has been a stunning success for nearly thirty years and if it turns out to be the end of manned flight for NASA it will be a sad statement of our Government and it's lack of commitment to science.

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