THE END OF THE U.S. MANNED SPACE AGE
2006 Shuttle Launch view from cabin
End of the Space Shuttle
The End of an Era
We can all recall watching or seeing images of a shuttle on the launch pad as the launch control person counts down to launch. The awesome power of that controlled explosion forcing the shuttle vehicle into space can draw awe and breath-taking suspense, from the clearing of the tower to the jettison of the boosters and external fuel tank, to the time they enter orbit we all hold our breath and silently we pray that our fellow men make it to their destination safely. We gaze at the images of mission control where men sitting in rows at monitoring computer terminals watch their screens as large wall screens track the shuttle's position after a launch. Soon though all the spectacle of a U.S. lead manned space launch will end.
The shuttle program is slatted for retirement in 2010. There are currently only four missions left for the shuttles and their crews. The once mighty bird of the United States that lead to U.S.'s ultimate achievement over space will be grounded forever. With the final launch of a shuttle NASA will retire the aging fleet and put them out to pasture. The ISS will have to be completed by E.U. and Russian space craft which do not have the capability or the amazing engineering the aged shuttles have.
The U.S. government has decided that it needs to shelve manned space exploration for now. With massive budget cuts and revamps there is just no money to develop a new and more reliable manned vehicle. Each shuttle launch costs the taxpayers six hundred million dollars per launch, in times like these we can see why it seems to be a waste of money to send an aged space vehicle into space at such high cost and risk. The sad thing is there is nothing to replace the shuttles for now and with no money to spend on research and development for a program to design and build a better vehicle at less cost there may not be anything to replace them for a long time.
Now we see the playing field changing, with India and China racing for a moon landing forty years after we first landed on the moon. We once had the guts, and guile that it took to push the limits of our human ingenuity. The United States lead the way and speared into breaking all the rules when it came to exploration, science, and engineering. We were the leaders of the world, we showed them what a free country could do when we put our minds and our courage to the test. Now it seems we have settled into a state of disarray, and apathy much like our aging shuttle program. I believe the people of the U.S. should challenge ourselves especially in times like these where things are hard. We should develop new space vehicles, we should push forward and never stop! You become a leader by taking risks and knowing the benefits of sacrifice.
To those men and women that sacrificed their lives in the name of exploration, with brave hearts, and keen minds... I solute you, and thank you all for your sacrifice, bravery, and dedication to our great nation.