The Space Shuttle’s Final Launch

And she’s off. Here’s video of Space Shuttle Atlantis taking off on the final mission for the iconic spacecraft. Atlantis lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., about two hours ago carrying four astronauts on a 12-day mission to deliver a year’s worth of supplies to the international space station and haul as much trash as possible back to Earth. This last mission comes 30 years after the first shuttle launch. After this flight, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the U.S. will field another manned spacecraft despite plans for private companies to deliver American astronauts to space later in this decade. Until that happens, we’ll rely on cheap but proven Russian Soyuz capsules to get our astronauts to the International Space Station.

  • blight

    He did the right thing. Cracking down on welfare programs like aerospace, that have nothing to do with building missiles to rain death upon our enemies.

    And yes, Constellation was the wrong program. It was a claptrap put together by Bush to pacify Floridians who were pro-NASA. And sadly, we have no money for NASA, especially when we have a legislative branch ready to cut any program that has nothing to do with the military (and apparently, NASA doesn’t have enough to do with the military).

    For the time being it’s cheaper to put stuff into orbit through Russia, and so out of a spirit of fiscal conservatism Obama will do so. However, his political rivals will say “Obama loves Russia”, then forget that he made these moves because nobody in Congress cares about NASA, and probably told him so…

    • Josh

      Ah… it must be a great comfort to just make up a story when the facts don’t agree with you.

  • IKnowIT

    Good thing the Air Force has it’s own delivery systems. My Lord, delivering OUR astronauts on RUSSIAN rockets… Jeeezzz… What’s next, the Chinese buying the Empire State Building?? Oops.

  • DauntlessCelt

    I hate that. I always wanted to see one of these launch - in person. Not gonna happen.

  • radj

    Where will all our American-trained space and rocket scientists go for employment? Iran? India? Russia? China? Saudi Arabia? Germany? Brazil? Can you can say brain drain, America?

  • jamesb

    It IS sad….
    We leave the Space SHIP business to go back to people riding in big telephone booths….

    I guess we’ll just have to settle for WATCHING Star Trek!

  • jamesb

    seriously if these retire NASA guys in the private sector can do this with 1/100th of NASA money ……

    We’re ALL gonna make out on this…..

  • jamesb

    Congress is NEVER gonna be happy with relaying on the Russian or any other country to get our people in orbit….

    We’ll suffer thru for the next year or two….
    But you’ll see SpaceX stepping up and others….

    I’m holding out for the lift body jobbie…
    At least that LOOKS like a Space Ship, right?

    • blight

      As long as the air force can continue to launch/recover satellites in an unmanned fashion, manned spaceflight is not a priority.

      Cynically, with all the hub-bub about drones in the sky, why the sudden emphasis on manned spaceflight again? We should probably figure out the problem of cheap launching of high mass objects /before/ we pretend we are practicing for moon colonization…

  • usa

    wow russai dosnt even have a space shuttle and usa has had it and they got old so that shows that we are way ahead of any contryt

    • Alberto

      Google Buran

      • Prodozul

        It was destroyed

        • blight

          And also, more expensive than their workhorse rockets, so they didn’t waste their money on it. Prudent, wouldn’t you say?

          • ew-3

            You seem to forget that the Russians did have a space shuttle.
            It flew only once, after all the R&D was spent.
            Now who looks like they were prudent?

          • icedrake

            It’s not the R&D cost that went well over budget with Atlantis — it’s the per-launch cost. The original design and construction was actually slightly under cost.

  • radj

    Did President Kennedy’s dream today die?

    • TLAM Strike

      He dream died when they canceled Apollo.

      Then again Kennedy canceled DARPA’s Project Orion in favor of Apollo so I don’t really care what Kennedy’s dream was in the first place.

      Orion would have send Americans do the moons of Jupiter and Saturn at the end of the decade (1960s), Kennedy wanted our Moon by the end of the decade.

  • Nick

    No country can pork barrel forever!!!At some point programmes which are not 100% necessary will have to be cut.There’s a huge amount of attitude adjustment to make.America:your broke…..time to make more money than you spend.
    Not rocket science!!!!{Pun intended}

    • TLAM Strike

      Amount per Tax Dollar given to NASA: 1/200th (1/2 of every 1 cent)

      Dollars returned to economy from products invented thanks to NASA R&D per Tax Dollar given: 3:1 ($3 returned for every one given)

      NASA makes money, what government program does that?

      • TLAM Strike

        EDIT I mean 1/2 of a cent per dollar given.

      • blight

        Military spending occasionally gives civilian returns, but most of the tech outcomes relate to better weapons.

  • Mark

    The Manchurian President has turned NASA into a Muslim Outreach Program. My only regret is that my company won’t hold the fumigation contract when this unqualified punk and his equally objectionable wife leave the White House.

    • blight

      What do Muslims have to do with space launches? Are we putting Arabs into space? That’s funny, the Astronaut Corps doesn’t look particularly Muslim. The only astronauts from the Middle East are that Israeli pilot who took part in Osirak (who died aboard Columbia) and Ansari (a female Iranian who made big money in the US).

      • Belesari

        Blight i see you didnt hear the news Obama wanted the new head of nasa to Outreach to muslims as his number one job.

        • blight

          This from say, 2010?

          “When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering,” Bolden said in the interview.”

          I find it most interesting that the stated priorities given to him have /nothing/ to do with space. Then again, NASA’s glory days are over. The Space Shuttle only went ahead on the promise of military payoff, and now that the military has their prototype space plane the shuttle is basically down and out. Other than unmanned probes to other planets, the manned Astronaut Corps is kept around to ensure continuity of institutional memory.

  • Matt

    We should have built 1-2 shuttles a year since production started, and then had a REAL replacement for them.

  • joe

    The shuttle was, and always was, a bloody bad idea as finally enacted.

    It was billed as a ‘reusable’ spacecraft - it wasn’t (the amount stripped and rebuilt between flights is comparable to the cost of a new ‘disposable’ Euro or Russian heavy lift)

    It was billed as making ‘access to space commonplace’ and that mindset directly led to the columbia and challenger disasters.

    Should there be a manned space programme - yes. But shuttle should have been fifteen to twenty years dead by now. Of course the ‘in theory’ is that it’s being retired for commercial launch to take over - my response is that that will happen but not unless NASA says, openly, now, what they’re prepared to pay for a US-based commerical launch…

    Failing that - roll on the manned mars quest.

    Be interesting to see how/if China’s declared 2024 manned moon mission goes (and I think it’s 2040 for mars, supposedly).

  • Nmate

    It is saddening to see science get cut during recessions instead of cutting things that don’t matter. When I see two able bodied adults paying for a heaping shopping cart full of groceries with Welfare stubs, or when I hear about tax cuts for people who are already swimming in money, it’s pretty obvious the think that better things could have been had with those tax dollars. The James Webb Space Telescope, for example. I find it funny that Republicans always go right for the throat on science cuts. Maybe it’s because a large portion of their constituency is scientifically ignorant?

    • blight

      Most politicians look out for number one: themselves. And number two: their district. And number three: their constituents. Indirectly, looking out for your district is looking out for your people.

      Does a telescope make money? Maybe. Does it mostly help JPL (-CA), Houston (-TX), Goddard Space Center (MD), Cape Canaveral (-FL), rocket assembly (-LA)?

      I don’t know how able bodied adults can pay for heaping shopping carts, but my thoughts on the matter are that it might be a month’s worth of shopping in one go (typical for American families), and they may be couponing. That and processed food is worthless and sold for cheap.

      Tax cuts for the rich is on the theory that rich /people/ build jobs, rather than rich /companies/. If rich people want to avoid accumulating wealth, high taxation can be used to drive them towards investment (reduced capital gains tax, etc).

      Scientific expertise in the American population is rare in general. However, lefties tend to be sympathetic to basic research (while remaining wary of applied sciences and industry for things like BPA, industrial pollution and the like)

  • John

    As a fan of manned space flight, ending the shuttle and Constellation was the right thing to do. Those engineers and dollars will now flow to the private space sector and in 15 years there will be so many craft in orbit simultaneaously it won’t be news.

    Where would the aviation industry be if in 1903 the government declared that it would monopolize the industry and there would only be a single model aircraft at any given time?

    • blight

      …no, they won’t. Those dollars will flow to the general fund. VC will sit around and let SpaceX assume all the risk, then swamp the field after someone else does all the bleeding and sweating.

      As for the engineers, many of them will be taking jobs at fractions of their wages, and work in an atmosphere which encourages them to keep their brainstorms to themselves rather than collaborate in very large design teams (a la Skunk Works, or as they did during Apollo 13).

      John, you forget the Wrights built their plane despite competition from Langley, who was pulling government money from the Smithsonian and was much better funded.

      The present system was never about government monopolies, more that nobody had the guts to put down millions (or potentially more) money on this venture.

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