End of an era

Regular guest blogger Pete wrote the following for the Big Bad Blog, and sent it to me prior to the space shuttle taking off on its final mission.

Like a moron, I didn’t post it until Sunday afternoon. Sorry, Pete.

Mr. Topp

Today is the beginning of the end of an era covering almost exactly 30 years. Today the Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch on the last ever space shuttle mission. I can’t speak for other science and technology geeks out there, but I was struck with a strong sense of nostalgia. The shuttle program really feels like it is “my” space program. Just
like how the Apollo program was the space program for my Dad, and the generation that came before me. Growing up I had at least 3 space shuttle models. I can tell you where I was when I first heard about the Challenger disaster. I know that manned space flight is going to continue, but it won’t be the same. When I won’t be a child when it starts, so it won’t seem quite so grand. All the previous space flights were historical, they seemed far away. All the future space
flights I will be able to understand the technology, in essence seeing the strings behind the magic.

Here are some quick facts for you. The Enterprise flew the first test flight was done on August 12 1977, the year I was born. The first actual mission was on April 12 1981. So we can round off a bit and say the program was 30 years and 3 months long. As nostalgic as I am for the shuttle program you have to remember that 30 years is a long time. Think about the safety and reliability of a 30 year old car, now imagine taking that into space.

Some people criticize NASA as a waste of money, and I have to disagree with them. First off I agree with Stephen Hawking when he said that the only future for the human race is off earth. If we all keep living here we are going to destroy the planet so we have to move out some time. Also here are some more facts for you. The most the US ever spent on the space program in was in 1966 when they gave NASA 4.4% of the federal budge. In 2008 it was 0.6%. A little more than half of one percent. Even if NASA is a waste of money it is a small waste when you compare it to how much the US spends bombing the Middle East.

Even with all I have said so far I still admire Barack for cancelling the Shuttle Program, and it’s follow up, the Constellation Program. At least he acknowledges that the US has some problems at home that they need to fix before they go back into space.

Photo by Trey Radcliffe.

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