Final five – New year spells the end of the shuttle program

Shuttle launch NASA

The shuttle’s Space Shuttle Main Engines or SSMEs are scheduled to light one last time in Sep. 2010 Credit: NASA

Everything has its time. In the case of the space shuttle program some would argue that its time has come and gone. It cannot be argued however that the space shuttle program has given us some of the most spectacular moments in space history. Delivery of satellites into orbit, retrieval of satellites, repair missions to orbiting telescopes, missions to manned space station and an era where spacewalks went from a mysticism to an everyday occurrence – the shuttle era gave us all this. It also gave us a totally different type of vehicle, one that was not a one-time use, but instead would be used over and over again for 30 years.

Now there are only five missions left. The shuttle program will enter into its final year next month after a history spanning back to 1981, when the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, roared into orbit aboard Columbia. However, Between 1961 and 1969 NASA developed and flew four new manned space vehicles. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft and the Lunar Module or LM. Between 1976 and 2010 NASA will have flown one manned spacecraft the shuttle. There contrast between the two eras could not be more stark. One of growth and innovation and a second of limited growth. It seems almost as if in its formative years NASA raced to achieve it goal and then decided to stop and fully realize the realm it had entered.

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