Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thank you NASA, for the Space Shuttle and all that you do........

With the safe landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis early this morning, the United States Space Shuttle program came to an end after 30 years of honorable operations. Many have been critical of this decision, stating repeatedly that we our ceding our supremacy in manned spaceflight to other nations. I, however, believe in quite the contrary. Although the United States Space Shuttle program produced a magnificent marvel of aerospace engineering, the design is dated and its maintenance and operations are exceptionally costly by any standards. By allowing and encouraging the commercial sector to pick up the mantle and take care of most of the mundane tasks that would have occupied the shuttle program, post-ISS completion, NASA is free to explore again. But will NASA get the support it deserves? Will the commercial spaceflight sector get the support and, moreover, the respect they deserve? What many fail to realize or simply forget when it comes to the direction of NASA and its policy is that at it core it is not a scientific entity, but a military and political one. Much of NASA's guilded history within science, testing, and exploration were driven by a military and political will to fund any given project for potential military and political gain. Post Cold War, NASA has not been as fortunate. The Unites States could have had a viable replacement for the Space Shuttle well before its current demise. Had it not been for a number of politically driven program cancellations and cutbacks, the Space Shuttle's replacement could have possibly been coming online as we speak. Two of the more notable programs were that of the DC-X/ Delta Clipper and X-33/ Venture Star. Both programs showed exceptional promise, but due to technical setbacks that are usually expected with programs of this nature, both programs were cancelled prematurely.

As for the commercial sector, the strides that have been made within the last 10 years, would make any investor smile in any other industry. There are now multiply companies producing multiple systems at production and operation costs that are incredible in comparison to past and present mainstream systems. This means that the taxpayer would get much more out of a single dollar put towards spaceflight than he or she would have ten years ago. Why is this not good for our nation? If it is simply a question of jobs, then once again I ask, how are commercial space programs not good for our nation? Like the automotive and aviation industries before it, the job opportunities within the commercial space industry will far exceed those which are currently available, especially once the industry begins to mature.

All of these things being said, I would like to thank NASA for the Space Shuttle program as well as all that they do and have done for all aspects of science. The work of NASA can be seen in more things than just the Space Shuttle, a simple fact that is simple forgotten. Every single part of our daily lives has been effected by the application of NASA research to daily tasks. The current success of commercial spaceflight is do in large part to the data collected and funding distributed by NASA itself.  That fact that you, NASA, were able to achieve so much within the constantly changing political landscape, the tide of which ultimately determines your funding, is impressive.We, the people, have taken these dedicated men and women for granted. We should do more to bolster them up during this time of transition. To all those of the Space Shuttle program, and all those who work so hard in other capacities at NASA, thank you for the memories, and keep pushing onward and upward............

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