Goodbye, Space Shuttle: Atlantis touches down for the last time

Today marks a extremely sad moment in US history, the end of the Space Shuttle program. STS135, the mission name for the final shuttle mission of Atlantis, the last shuttle to visit the ISS, was a resounding success. Now, the aging ship is scheduled to be mothballed.

The Space Shuttle program began in 1981, and ran for an impressive thirty years; the longest any space flight program has ever run. The first fully functional shuttle was the Columbia, which launched on 12 April, 1981. This was followed by four more shuttles, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis. The orbiters were built with the purpose of creating a reusable ship that could perform short distance space operations such as launching satellites, performing experiments in space and servicing satellites such as the Hubble Telescope.

Space travel does have massive risks, and this was realized during two missions. On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed in a horrifying accident, breaking apart 73 seconds into flight causing all seven members of the crew to perish. This disaster put the shuttle program on hold for 32-months and it was discovered that the cause of the accident was due to an O-ring seal failing. Challenger was later replaced by Endeavour.

Seventeen years later, on February 1, 2003, Columbia was also involved in a tragedy, where it broke up on re-entry to the atmosphere, killing all seven members of the crew. The mission was originally delayed 18 times before launch, and when it finally did launch a large piece of foam damaged the thermal tiles that protect the ship from hot gasses, which tragically destroyed the ship.

However, despite the disasters of the Space Shuttle program, it has achieved many great victories in thirty years. Clocking up 135 flights, and a whopping total of 1331 days of flight time. During their lifetimes, the space craft were able to make many achievements such as taking the first American woman to space, refurbishing satellites that were already in orbit, deploying satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope and launching spacecraft like the Magellan to explore Venus.

The Space Shuttle program was always destined to be retired in 2011, but was scheduled to be replaced with Project Constellation which was intended "to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment, develop technologies needed for opening the space frontier, and conduct fundamental science." The destiny of the crafts is now museums across the US, as they are decommissioned and made safe for the public to view over the coming days.

The next space program was already being planned, but unfortunately under the new Obama administration NASA had its funding cut and the project was officially shut down upon signing of the new NASA Authorization act on October 10, 2010. According to the new program, deep space flight may not be possible until 2030 at the earliest.

The Space Shuttle program holds a special place in many hearts worldwide, and will be sorely missed. In the final words of the NASA team from the live feed today, "Job well done, America."

Image Credits: Wikipedia, AP, The Big Picture, CNET

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34 Comments

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I'd like to know whether the end of this program will stagnate tech development and knowledge or actually push it forward. Anything can happen.

It's sad how the government doesn't even care anymore about NASA, that's something America used to be and is still proud of. If types like Obama were in power 50 years ago, we wouldn't have been the first on the moon. It's important to keep progress moving for the sake of the country, not stop it due to some stupid personal priorities. There are so many other things Obama could've cut that are actually unnecessary, instead of NASA.

The recovery crew (the initial people first meeting the crew when they get back), should have dressed like apes. that would have been a good, fitting return for them.

So that's it? The Obama Admin. says cut it, and it's done? No congressional meeting or anything? I guess there aren't any other programs to cut, no social programs at all. NASA doesn't matter <sarcasm>

This is a sad day.

So i gather all this money we spent on the Hubble Telescope is just going to be allowed to go away somehow, seeing we wont be sending space shuttles to repair it anymore.

Yes, yes, cut science projects, invest more in defense and weapons... Well done... NOT!

Okay, Europe and Asia, time to make your move now.

KavazovAngel said,
Yes, yes, cut science projects, invest more in defense and weapons... Well done... NOT!

Okay, Europe and Asia, time to make your move now.

They are not cutting science projects to invest more in defense and weapons. They are cutting defense and weapons too. It's more cut science, defense, and weapons to invest more in entitlements.

Asmodai said,

They are not cutting science projects to invest more in defense and weapons. They are cutting defense and weapons too. It's more cut science, defense, and weapons to invest more in entitlements.

But why is the Obama Admin. allowed to cut funding without any checks and balances?

Jmaxku said,

But why is the Obama Admin. allowed to cut funding without any checks and balances?


I'm not fan of Obama but it's the Congress that ultimately passes the budget/determines funding. NASA funding has largely dried up in the current economic environment.

Asmodai said,

I'm not fan of Obama but it's the Congress that ultimately passes the budget/determines funding. NASA funding has largely dried up in the current economic environment.

I know Congress had a hand in it. I just haven't heard how, and the artlicle suggests it was the Obama Admin. Now I'm hearing rumors that Russia is going to charge to the US 50 million a head to go to the ISS.

It's a shame the live feed didn't acknowledge the other nations around the world that helped make the shuttle program such a success.

It was amazing to watch the landing, knowing that 30 years ago these things were brand new.

Nashy said,
It's a shame the live feed didn't acknowledge the other nations around the world that helped make the shuttle program such a success.

It was amazing to watch the landing, knowing that 30 years ago these things were brand new.

lol I'm sure Canada gets enough recognition every time that arm crane thing inside the shuttles came out in picture/videos

like so: http://www6.conestogac.on.ca/~...nagel/MECH2080/Canadarm.jpg

gtxvortex said,
Its actually exciting! and a job well done to everyone involved in this. But now we get the new advanced improved stuff

There is no new advanced improved stuff in the works. Just ideas with no funding inside NASA and on the civilian side they are making less advanced but significantly cheaper rockets then what we had in the late 60's. The highest capability rocket I've seen proposed is the Falcon Heavy which hasn't even flown yet. Even it still lags well behind the Saturn Vs we had in 1967 in terms of lift capability though it is MUCH, MUCH, cheaper.

surprising "Endeavour" wasn't "Endeavor" lol... at the end of the day though space isn't for government or nations no longer without the cold war racing it's now just another place for private industry to take over just like arms industry.

Digitalx said,
surprising "Endeavour" wasn't "Endeavor" lol... at the end of the day though space isn't for government or nations no longer without the cold war racing it's now just another place for private industry to take over just like arms industry.

It's named after a famous British sailing vessel; James Cook's HM Bark Endeavour. The funny thing is that even NASA got it wrong at times! There was an incident in 2007 where the orbiter's name on the launch pad was misspelled and NASA had to hurriedly fix it when people called in to report the error.

yowan said,
A new age for Science with the private shuttles

+1000

Privatizing space travel sounds amazing. Where's Virgin at?

Majesticmerc said,
^ What he said.

Actually, if you have a proper look at history it is more like Religion > war, slavery, ignorance, etc,etc, etc.......

Foub said,

Actually, if you have a proper look at history it is more like Religion > war, slavery, ignorance, etc,etc, etc.......

Or Religion = war, slavery, ignorance, etc,etc, etc......

osm0sis said,

Or Religion = war, slavery, ignorance, etc,etc, etc......

When I read what Foub said I was about to write the exact same thing. So +1