Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Endeavour Lands for Final Time

Reuters image of Endeavour final landing in the early hours of June 1, 2011.

This morning one more milestone on the path of no more NASA manned missions was achieved. After 16 days in orbit, the youngest shuttle made its 25th and final landing at Cape Canaveral this morning. Endeavour's next flight will be on the back of NASA's 747 and permanent display in Los Angeles, CA.

As Endeavour landed, sister ship Atlantis slowly crawled out to the launch pad. The launch of Atlantis on the 135th mission of the fleet will mark the end of the Shuttle era with NASA. The long and productive era began with STS-1 and Columbia lifting off Pad 39A on April 12, 1981.

The saddest part of this will be contemplating the future. Orion and Ares are in limbo, though work does proceed to make Ares a space taxi. Mission to return to the Moon has been cancelled. President Obama talks of going to Mars and asteroids, but the time frame is after 2012 and more like 2014 before NASA is supposed to be ready. Commercial space interests are expected to pick up the low-orbit slack, but Spaceship One is still in testing. Which leaves Russia and its 45 year old Soyuz design as the only way to get to the ISS and low-orbit.


nzgarry said...

The shuttle fleet retirement is undeniably sad.
As you say so well, it is contemplating the future that makes it hurt all the more.
It seems odd that the technology is reverting to missile style rocketry after all this time.
The shuttle never lived up to either its cost per mission or mission frequency projections but who cares - it has performed magnificiently. Furthermore, reusability is far more an issue today than it was in 1981.

Rides A Pale Horse said...

Now that Ubama has deemed NASA a "muslim outreach" organization, the Russians will be the only ones to get our people back and forth to the ISS.

"Need ride komrade?"

JFK weeps.

Anna said...

Obama and his lack of space vision burns me up. Shutting down Orion and Ares while retiring the Shuttles has put so many highly skilled people out of work, its not funny in the least.

Out of the $787billion in Stimulus, could Obama have spared $20billion over 4 years to help NASA with its underfunded budget? Instead that braintrust has been more than decimated.

Because of Obama, the US is now well down the road to becoming the Portugal of space. While the PRC and Russia surge forward to claim the power and recources found on the Moon.

Yes, JFK would be sick. JFK loved this country. Obama only loves himself.

nzgarry said...

Well yes Anna, you said it.
Retiring the shuttle is one thing but retiring all of the support infrastructure that goes with it is the real blow.
The US is big and strong enough to come back from that but it should not need to be doing any coming back.

Anna said...

I know Garry. I have met some of the rocket scientists who are seeing their entire careers destroyed by this. Not happy is an understatement. That they all happen to live and work in states that voted Bushis not suspicious at all, really.... /sarc

After Apollo was prematurely shutdown, NASA still had Skylab and Shuttle programs coming online. So the infrastruture and people remained. Now does NASA have anything? Unless things are reversed on Orion and Ares, the answer is no. Which will leave the US in the position of asking for Soyuz missions from Russia and paying over $400mil for the privledge of blasting off in a 45 year old design. Meanwhile the PRC and Japan are looking to space for resources.

Commercial US space launches, will they save the US? The millionaires who pay the Russians for a flight will still fly. But that is it. No commercial craft right now can reach the ISS. So back to paying Russia and having no other way to get to low-orbit or anywhere else.