The 135th and final space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, concluding 30 years of shuttle missions launched from US soil. The shuttle mission will transport 3.5 tonnes of supplies (including 2 iPhone 4s loaded with apps to conduct experiments) to the diverse crew comprising Russians, Americans and Japanese at the International Space Station. While this would mean a hiatus for NASA space travel for awhile, other countries and private companies (like Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Virgin Galactic and Northrop Grumman) might takeover the helm in funding, developing and organizing future space travel to satiate man’s unquenchable desire to explore the stars, democratizing space travel.
You can view the roller coaster timeline, littered with both amazing triumphs and shattering tragedies, of the space shuttle here.
Deenis Overbye from the New York Times also commented in this short essay about how the space shuttle program was perhaps more of a social and political endeavor, rather than a scientific one.
Most of the scientists I know would be thrilled to see humans exploring space, landing on Mars, for example — they just don’t think that science should pick up the check. Many of them were suspicious of the shuttle, both because of the cost drain and because making instruments like the space telescope compatible with it would compromise the potential science, restricting them to low earth orbit, for example, and making them hostage to the exigencies of human spaceflight.
But politically, if not technically, the shuttle and the space telescope needed each other.
Why do you think humans desire to travel into space when there is so much undiscovered here on Earth?
What do you think about future space travel being funded and organized by private corporations instead of governments?