On this 4th of July Weekend, I think it is appropriate that we take a minute to reflect on one of our country’s finest achievements. As most of us know, this will be the final liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis, marking the end of NASA’s shuttle program.
A few years ago, the President of the United States cut the funding for NASA’s Constellation program, which was supposed to replace the current shuttle fleet. An unfortunate side effect of this decision was that nearly 10,000 NASA employees in the Vehicle Assembly Building are now out of work.
I grant you that the people who lost their jobs are highly skilled workers who should have no problem finding work for the various entrepreneurs who eventually hope to offer commercial space flights (for example: Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic). However, I can’t help but feel that this is another in a string of recent hits to our national pride.
When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the Moon in 1969, fulfilling President Kennedy’s vision, it sent a message to the rest of the world that America was the dominant power in the “space race”. And that was a title our country retained with the invention of the shuttle.
The large cargo capacity of the space shuttle has allowed it to carry scientific instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope into space. Also, the shuttle was the workhorse behind the larger components of the International Space Station.
Neither the Russians or Chinese have spacecraft that can rival the cargo capacity of the shuttle so I have to wonder if the decision to cancel the shuttle program will put an end to the space station’s construction.
I believe that we are witnessing the end of an era in American ingenuity. Back in 1969 the world watched in awe as our countrymen landed on the Moon. I think it is an embarrassing reversal of fortune that we will now have to hitch a ride with a foreign agency just to make into orbit for the time being.
As always, feel free to launch your comments into cyberspace here and let me know what you think.
…and of course, have a GREAT 4th of July weekend!!!