As NASA’s final shuttle launch approaches, we look at America’s future in the final frontier.
America’s last space shuttle is on the launch pad.
Sometime in the next few days, weather permitting, it will go up. And will come down. And that will be it.
No more space shuttles.
In fact, no more manned American space flight period until something else comes along. We’ll be renting from the Russians. Watching the Chinese. Betting on a new wave of commercial spacecraft.
Talking about deep space, but not going there yet.
So, is the Space Age over? For us? For everybody? Was that just a dream?
This hour On Point: the last shuttle, and the future of humans in space.
Irene Klotz, NASA reporter for Reuters
Andrew Chaikin, science journalist and space historian. He’s the author of several books and articles covering NASA’s past and possible future, such as, “Voices from the Moon” and “A Passion for Mars”.
George Abbey, senior fellow in space policy at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston. He’s also the former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Jeff Hoffman, former NASA astronaut. Currently he’s a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT.
From Tom’s Reading List:
- The Economist: “Today’s space cadets will, no doubt, oppose that claim vigorously. They will, in particular, point to the private ventures of people like Elon Musk in America and Sir Richard Branson in Britain, who hope to make human space flight commercially viable.“
- The Washington Post: “In outer space, as everyone knows, there’s no up or down. In space politics, there’s no left or right. It’s an ideologically unpredictable and non-linear universe, one that happens to be, at the moment, in a state of flux.”
- Time: “But there’s the other side of the shuttle too. The $500 million price tag every time one took off, the months of maintenance and prep work needed between flights, the temperamental electronic and hydraulic systems that scrubbed launches time and time again, the thermal tiles the ships would shed like dry leaves. And, finally, there are the 14 astronauts who lost their lives when first Challenger and later Columbia soared aloft but never returned home.”
- USA Today: “The United States will continue to lead in space exploration despite the end of the space shuttle program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Friday during an appearance at the National Press Club.”
This hour on the show, we heard the theme from the 1966 Star Trek TV series by Alexander Courage
Here’s a briefing from NASA on the last shuttle flight.
And here’s a video from NASA about the first launch.