We like to separate the Apollo and Shuttle eras in our mind (and the five-year interregnum period without crewed flights makes it easy to), but in 1981, Apollo was still part of recent memory, with many key players like Young and Kranz still working at NASA.
The Challenger accident stifled any hopes of a return to the heady days of the 1960s and presaged a more considered and conservative future for NASA. What, then, did the Columbia disaster mean?
Sunday, July 8, 2012, marks the first anniversary of the last launch of the Space Shuttle Program. Atlantis lifted off LC-39A at 11:29:03 after a very brief delay and began STS-135, the last mission in the three-decade-long program.
Preserving freedom is serious business. The Declaration of Independence is rather hard to read in places because it was stored in direct sunlight for many years -- a definite no-no for historical artifacts.
Last weekend, something very unusual happened -- I found myself in the right place at the right time. That was because the National Space Society was holding its 2012 International Space Development Conference right here in Washington, D.C., just a week after I'd moved in for my Congressional internship.
For all the Star Wars and Star Trek resonances in this mission, Robert Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon seems a better fictional precursor.
After dealing with a buildup of static electricity and a few other minor problems, an announcement suddenly flashed across the main TV screen -- an unknown object had been detected, on a collision course with the Spacecraft!
The Space Shuttle has been the most successful space launch system ever by far. In 30 years we launched the Space Shuttle 135 times. Today more than half of the just over 500 people who have ever orbited the earth, have done so aboard one of the five space shuttles.
Will we look back and ask ourselves whether the decision to abandon space was a wise decision? Or will historians look back and identify this decision as a textbook example of when America sacrificed long-term strategic goals for short-term interests.
The American Apollo program was one of the greatest events in all of human history. By turning our backs on JFK's achievement, we have consented to national humiliation and national decline.
As with baseball, the pride and achievement embodied by the space program has now become part of the American fabric. Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney, challenge us again, define what is next for America in Space?
Although space shuttles inspired generations of space-gazers and contributed greatly to our national pride and identity, there are many misconceptions about the space shuttles and their missions.
After eating lunch with the center staff in the Aeronautics room, they let me try a flight simulator. I managed to take off from LaGuardia Airport, navigate to another airport, and land, all without crashing, something I felt very proud of given my general lack of video-game skills.