Friday, May 6, 2011
HItchin' a Ride
The launching of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, initially scheduled for last week, has been pushed back to at least May 16th. The May 16 launch is supposed to be the US space program's second-to-last shuttle flight to the International Space Station, followed by Atlantis in June. After that, the 30-year-old shuttle program will end.
This launch has garnered some attention because the Endeavour is to be commanded by US astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head sustained in January.
This sad coincidence aside, these last two launches are receiving little or no attention. Go ahead, turn on the news, open the paper, visit any of dozens of news/current event websites. I dare you to find one mention of the fact that, after the June Atlantis mission, the United States will have no means with which to launch American astronauts into space. Well, no domestic means. There's always the Russians. That's right. We'll be hitch-hiking rides on Soyuz capsules to get to and from the International Space Station. Ironic that the entity that was the singular impetus and driving force of America's absolute dominance in space has morphed into a space taxi.
I know this hasn't been my best post. I just find it all sad and bittersweet. I also find it concerning and alarming that the we give such small regard and priority to an endeavor that I believe is the most important to the long term survival of our species.