End of an Era
I suppose manned spaceflight from KSC isn't a guaranteed future.
Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 15:30 GMT today on its STS-135 mission to the International Space Station. View from Atlantis onboard camera shortly after launch. pic: NASA TV On board for the shuttle programme's swansong flight are commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission …
...or something like it. Perhaps if we weren't pissing away a shit-ton(ne) of cash on half a dozen wars, and on bailing out Obama's buddies on Wall Street and in the banking "industry", we'd have the cash to fully fund the Constellation program.
Soyuz may not be as "sexy" as the Shuttle, but they've been flying it for nearly half a century, and made steady, deliberate, incremental improvements -- I like to call it the "VW Beetle Of Space" -- to the point where it's become a solid, dependable workhorse of a crew-transport vehicle (and cargo transport, in the Progress configuration).
What really kills me is that if we'd followed the same path with Apollo, we'd be set now. Apollo, when we last left it, was at a point where it could transport crew and cargo, if you were to replace the LM with, say a "mission module" (a la Soyuz) or a hab module for long-duration flights, or a cargo module.
I'm no expert, but I'd bet that if we'd continued incrementally improving and upgrading Apollo, we'd have our own Soyuz equivalent today, and there'd be none of this handwringing and desperate, thumb-sucking positive spin over the end of a thirty-year program which was predicted -- in the early '70s -- to become a flying white elephant.
So, my feelings are mixed, right now; it was gorgeous, graceful, sexy, majestic -- and, yeah, a huge-assed money pit.
I can only hope that NASA (Orion), SpaceX (Dragon) and Boeing (CST100) get on the goddamn' stick with their crew/cargo-transfer craft.
A cold one, for thirty years' service by all the hard-working guys and gals at Houston and KSC.
todays average cell phone has a thousand times the computing power of the first machines used to design and run the shuttle.... and what do we do with it ? play angry birds or tweet about how the cat farted ...
it's 2011. we should have had interstellar travel by now. Or at least teleporters, or tricorders ..
vincent himpe sez on 07.08.11 @17:11gmt:
"it's 2011. we should have had interstellar travel by now. Or at least teleporters, or tricorders .."
Whoa, steady there, fella. Let's get realistic. My hope by now was that we'd have a base on the Moon, and be preparing to launch a Mars expedition. As it is, as of about 11:30am EDT, we don't even have a zero-g pot to piss in.
Dunno why, but since I saw - live on TV - Challenger destroyed in a cloud of smoke in '86, I've always been anxious on each mission for these folks' safe return. I'm not even a Yank.
Yeah, I saw Columbia on TV, too. By coincidence, I happened to be in Texas at the time.
Come back safely, folks...Park the bloody thing in the museum where it belongs on your return.
I feel about the same as you do.
The Shuttle was a technological marvel for its time, and can do things that no other spacecraft can do,... But it's hugely expensive to operate and maintain, has proven to be rather finicky, and turned out in some ways to be a lot more fragile than anticipated.
Even so, I'll be sad to see it go...
I still believe that the world needs a reusable space--plane like vehicle for ferrying cargo and people to and from LEO; the idea of throwing away a perfectly good booster stack -- engines and all -- every time you want to climb up the [gravity] well seems to be a wasteful way of doing things.
Elon Musk's Falcon 9 booster (launch) stage is intended (eventually) to be recoverable and re-usable:
-- Wikipedia: Falcon 9 (Section: Reusability)
-- -- -- -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9#Reusability
... and if SpaceX can deliver on the necessary engineering, then they'll have a Good Thing going, at least as far as wasted material is concerned.
However, I am not sure that recovering and re-using a liquid-fueled stage is practical, given the amount of refurbishment and testing required to ensure galvanic corrosion and salt-water contamination didn't compromise the components after splashdown...
(Grabbing my jacket; gotta take a walk around the Vehicle Assembly Building before they shut out the lights...)
But at least Elon Musk is doing something worthy with the money. Here's to good luck for SpaceX, and hoping they put the US back in space in a more rational matter.
That said, I will sorely miss the Shuttle. It had a lot of very unique capabilities that won't easily be replaced. And I will be absolutely shocked if MPCV ever becomes something more than a paper airplane.
Now, I've got to change my shorts AGAIN!!!
Captain (flying Atlantis) whipped out a camera, but seemed a bit puzzled how to use it. OK, bit unfair, he's got his hands full I suppose.
Maybe ther's no "procedure" for it.
They do seem incredibly busy, wwith all those manuals they seem to have to read.
I couldn't fly the bugger!
..but maybe the right way forward. Eventually.
Appreciate the issues with the Shuttle, namely high operating costs and limited orbit altitude. Nevertheless it's the closest thing we as humanity have to a real spacecraft.
Other systems might also get the people and supplies there, but are more akin to throwing a tin can up in the air. They are not spacecraft by any stretch of the imagination.
Go, Atlantis. Make this a perfect final mission.
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