Saturday, July 9, 2011


Back in May, we saw the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, the penultimate mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.  Yesterday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on its final mission, marking the end of the space shuttle program for good.

The shuttle program was started in 1972, and counting this last one, has launched a total of 135 missions, contributing quite a bit to the study and exploration of space.  Now that the program has come to an end, NASA no longer has the capability to send astronauts into space, and there’s no replacement program planned as of yet.  For now, the only way to get astronauts to the Space Station will be with the use of the Russian Soyuz program.

But that’s not to say that NASA won’t be getting anything done.  The Mars Space Laboratory, Curiosity, is set to launch to Mars at the end of this year to join Spirit and Opportunity, carrying a whole new set of equipment designed to search the surface of the planet for signs of microbial life, or at least signs that the planet might be habitable.  

When Atlantis finishes its mission later this month, it will join Endeavor and Discovery in retirement, and the Space Shuttle Program will end.  It is indeed the end of an era, but if you want to pay your respects, you can visit the three shuttles at museums in Florida, California, and D.C.

So the future of space exploration is sort of up in the air now (so to speak), but I’m sure we’ll see more manned space travel again soon.  After all, how can we resist the allure of space?

Safe trip, Atlantis, you've made us proud.

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