Final Shuttle Launch Goes Off Without A Hitch
Author: Jacob Sundstrom
published: 2011-07-08 14:35:27
The idea of space travel has captivated the minds of billions of people for hundreds of years. From Jules Verne to Neil Armstrong, the space program, and in particular the shuttle program, has stood as an icon of American ideology for decades. Now, the shuttle program that first began in 1982 launched for the final time. This marks the end of the space shuttle era, one whose legacy will be difficult to evaluate for many years to come.
A very thorough article on Space.com of all places looks back at the history of this storied program. Originally designed to make space travel easier and more affordable, this behemoth of a program wound up costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, and while the results were often stunning, they have yet to show their conventional wisdom. Two shuttle crashes in the 1980s, and again in 2003 also showed the vulnerability of the program, and reminded everyone just how big of a risk astronauts take every time they hop into a shuttle.
The launch of Atlantis, the final space shuttle, went off without a hitch at 11:29 a.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Reports projected somewhere between 750,000-1,000,000 people turned out to watch the final shuttle launch. While history was made with the creation and now the closure of the shuttle program, space travel is not dead. President Obama has charged NASA with two tasks: Landing on an asteroid by 2025, and Mars by the mid 2030s. That task is clearly easier said than done. We’ve all seen Armageddon.
Atlantis’ final mission is to take parts and supplies to the International Space Station, which orbits around the Earth and is scheduled to continue operation until 2020. Atlantis is set to return within a couple of weeks, and some fanfare can be expected for that landing as well. We’re not quite to Star Trek levels of space travel yet, but hope remains for one of the most controversial programs in the United States today.