Friday, May 14, 2010

Atlantis - The final launch

I woke up early to get some work done before the rest of the world began to stir. As I worked beside the slowly brightening kitchen window, I couldn't help but think about a similar sunrise in Florida, and the fact that as the day dawns there, the Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on the launchpad in anticipation of her last-ever schedule launch, STS-132.

As the final three missions tick down, we'll be seeing a lot of "lasts" before American human spaceflight goes silent for a while. For just over 49 years, the U.S. has been putting humans on top of rockets and lighting the candle. It's a process that, while expensive, has spawned not only technological innovation, but entire generations of kids to study science and pursue careers in the field.

You can't inspire excellence if you don't practice it yourself, and it saddens me to think that a leading nation has decided to stop practicing it (yes, I know the strategy is to shift accountability from government to commercial interests, but considering where commercial aviation is these days, I'm not hopeful for a future where early-on capitalism-driven innovation is ultimately replaced by bottom-line driven mediocrity. Call me a cynic.)

If you're watching, has the always-excellent Miles O'Brien broadcasting live with astronaut Leroy Chiao and David Waters. NASA-TV will also be running the live feed.

Your turn: Thoughts?


Mojo said...

Considering the incredibly tight tolerances of space travel and the launch vehicles that make it possible, I share your concerns over a private sector takeover of the space program. And I sort of suspect that anyone who's looked down the business end of an engine on a commercial airliner probably would too.

After all, it's not as if a space shuttle can be diverted to another airport if there's an in-flight emergency. You don't get any do-overs on a flight like that.

Nikki-ann said...

Argh... I missed it! I like to watch the launches online or on one of the news channels here if they're covering it (and I'm not at work). But I competely missed it.