The end of the Space Shuttle era
July 7, 2011
If all goes as planned, tomorrow’s scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the beginning of the end for the shuttle program. And when it touches down, the shuttle era will officially be over. With the program literally being almost exactly as old as I am (the first shuttle flight was on April 12, 1981, and I was born on Nov. 20th, 1981), it just seems surreal to know that the shuttles will no longer be operating. They were the face of NASA as I was growing up- they were “it.” But it is time for NASA to move on, let the private spaceflight industry take over the now routine task of ferrying astronauts to the ISS, and focus on exploring beyond low earth orbit.
The last I read, weather is going to be a big concern for the launch tomorrow, so there’s a decent chance it’ll get pushed back days or even weeks. But when it does happen, you should watch it. Especially if you’ve never seen one before. It’ll be all over the media so it’ll be hard to miss.
I decided to gather a few of the more interesting shuttle-related links I’ve come across over the past few days in my various science and space-related RSS feeds:
- Photo gallery of Atlantis on the launchpad, via Universe Today.
- Photo gallery that spans the entire shuttle program’s history, via Discovery News.
- Discovery’s first pilot remembers its troubled first mission, via Discovery News.
- Countdown: 10 amazing space shuttle photos, via Space.com.
- A glimpse into the complex rescue scenario in the event that Atlantis is irreparably damaged and incapable of re-entry, via Space.com.