I can remember building a model of the first shuttle. It was actually a model of a 747 and the shuttle because the first shuttle was just a test bed to learn the flight and glide dynamics of the spacecraft. Sadly, it was never intended to go into space. That shuttle was Enterprise, which had it’s picture featured in a Star Trek movie aboard the fictitious vessel that was it’s namesake. Enterprise first taxied onto a runway on February 15, 1977 and instantly became my fascination. However, on March 24th NASA will hold a news conference to brief the media on the final shuttle missions scheduled for this year.
Again, sadly, America has no replacement for the shuttle. No ‘step up’ for our space program to maintain our position atop the space-faring community. Our current American ‘leadership’ is content to allow other nations that privilege.
With no apparent measurable will to place America even into the running for space, we will sit on the sidelines and watch as other nations reap the inventive rewards of space research to return back to the moon, and then on to Mars. Make no mistake, we did, as a nation, reap rewards from our leadership in space. Programs like Mercury, Apollo, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle all provided us with technological break through that enhanced not only everyday lives, but both saved and defended those very lives also.
Some of the inventions we enjoy today because of our space programs are Velcro, MRI’s, Satellite TV, and a miriad of other things. A more extensive list of inventions based on what we learned or had to accomplish in space can be found here.
While I fully acknowledge the economic hard times we as a nation face, allowing the space program to not just face budge cuts but fall to the axe of elimination is inexcusable for such a great nation as America. However, there is a glimmer of hope. With such companies as Virgin Galactic, who won the X prize by being the first non-governmental entity to launch and return a craft into space, reaching into space without government funding we now have hope, and a host of other companies working to keep American space flight a reality. Given the rapidity with which such companies are springing up and staying around perhaps my dream of being able to see the curviture of the earth one day will be a reality.