Friday, July 8, 2011

Sayonara to the Space Shuttle

Today was the final launch of the Space Shuttle. As shuttle Atlantis rose into the cloudy Florida sky, the line of continuity from the earliest days of the NASA also came to a close. It saddens me that, try as I might, I never got to see a Space Shuttle take off, though it was a great experience to tour the Kennedy Space Center and see the shuttle, tank and booster rockets mounted at the launch pad.

The Space Shuttle was new & exciting when I was a little kid, it was to be the "next step" after the Apollo moon missions. I was intrigued by all things aviation and rocket-related, and was excited by Space Shuttle missions even after the tragedy of Challenger. The Space Shuttle, the Hubble telescope, the Mars rovers, it was and remains today amazing to me what we've managed to achieve.

I understand that the shuttle is outdated, and that with the space station complete, it's usefulness is outweighed by its cost. I hope that NASA doesn't give up on reaching the Moon again or Mars within my lifetime. The delay in developing a next-generation craft, or a clear mission plan, worries me. But even with all of the crises America and the world are facing today, I believe it's important to humanity to continue to explore space and other moons, asteroids, planets, and beyond. Even if it stayed in Earth orbit, the Space Shuttle represented to me the commitment to exploration and adaptation to living in space that is vital as we all advance into our future.

(My illustration above was done to commemorate the true story of a small bat that latched itself onto the tank of the Shuttle Discovery as it took of on a mission in 2009. He hung on as the Shuttle launched, as long as the camera was able to track him!)