The Last Shuttle Launch And The Future Of Space Exploration

As NASA’s final shuttle launch approaches, we look at America’s future in the final frontier.

Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (AP)

Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (AP)

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.

-Tom Ashbrook


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:


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.

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