This year begins a new decade, but it also will see the end of the United States’ trailblazing approach to manned spaceflight: the space shuttle program.
“In just five more flights, a chapter of history will be forever closed,” says Mike Mullane, a three-time NASA space shuttle astronaut and author of Riding Rockets. “It will be decades – perhaps generations – before humans will again see a winged vehicle launch into space and glide back to a runway landing.”Under current plans, NASA’s shuttle fleet will be retired by fall 2010. After that, there will be no more shuttle launches. But until then, travelers to Florida still have time to catch a launch.
“Watching a space shuttle launch is a dream come true for a lot of people,” said Andrea Farmer, public relations manager at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “It’s so powerful and amazing to see this colossal machine lift off into space. All of your senses are impacted by the launch: You see the shuttle launching, you hear the engines roar and you feel the ground rumbling under your feet.”