"We have the power, knowledge and equipment to build a world beyond our wonder. Only loss of nerve can defeat us. That is all."As I post this, today's planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on the program's final mission, STS-135, is up in the air due to cloudy and rainy weather at the launch site. Part of me hopes she doesn't fly today, as I don't necessarily relish seeing the launch pad after the vehicle is gone for good. I guess I don't do so well with endings.
James Dillet Freeman
This quote seems to reflect my mood insofar as the U.S. space program is concerned. It is - or was, anyway - a marquee program, a national competency that sent a global message. It said, over and over, that a country that can put humans into space is special. It leads. It takes risk. It makes sacrifices to drive change back home.
That all ends when Atlantis reaches wheels-stop at the end of this penultimate mission. All that leadership and capability? Gone. Thousands of people who've spent decades pushing the bounds of engineering have either lost their jobs or are about to - all with no replacement program in sight.
And as the country systematically allows its manned space flight skills to dissolve into history, Mr. Freeman's words seem strangely prescient: The nation lost its nerve. I hope it gets it back someday.
Your turn: Do you have any thoughts on the end of the shuttle program?