So Long to Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Luke Skywalker

STS-135 Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus, in zero gravity,enjoys the panoramic views provided by the multi-windowed Cupola aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

The final shuttle launch got a lot of coverage, but then it stopped. To find out  about  what’s going on aboard the International Space Station, I’ve called up NASA on the internet. The transferring of supplies that Atlantis brought up on its final flight is over, and the transfer of items from the space station to the shuttle is almost over, and Atlantis will be heading back with that in a couple of days.  I must admit that the news is not very exciting. And, frankly, I hope it doesn’t get exciting because that would mean the shuttle would be in trouble.  No doubt when it touches down, that will be covered because that will signal the end of the program, and perhaps the Space Age. .

And, really, it’s time for the shuttle program to end.  The shuttles never really lived up to their early advertising. As the Economist says, “The shuttle was supposed to have been a truck that would make the business of putting people into orbit quotidian. Instead it has been nothing but trouble. Twice it’s killed its crew.” It has also been extremely expensive.

The magazine says the Space Age is over. That inner space, though, is useful with its satellites that provide weather information, telecommunications, and incredible cameras that have revolutionized a lot of things, including warfare. “No power can mobilize its armed forces in secret. The exact location of every building on the planet is known.”

The reason for the race to the moon has gone. What sent us there was to beat the Soviet Union there because of military considerations. The states of the world are not vying for military advantage in space any more. They are cooperating with one another to explore space. Just take the space station as an example.  No one country owns it and a lot are contributing to its cost, $100 billion.  But is it worth it? It must  not be  because it scheduled to be “de-orbited” in 2020. And you really don’t find many people raising hell about that.  A lot think the money can be better spent on project to help people on Earth.

That doesn’t mean robots will stop exploring planets and asteroids. They will probably as long as governments are willing to pay for it. And private companies are working on providing commercial inner space rides, but only the very rich will be able to afford them.  Is the end of the Space Age a bad thing? Probably, if the scientific search for astronomical knowledge is abandoned. That’s probably unlikely because we are creatures of curiosity and some of us never stop asking what’s it all about and will continue to try to find out.

Meanwhile, NASA is saying the Space Age is not  over.  It still  plans to send humans into deep space, meybe not the moon, because there is no need to do that again.  You can check out what NASA plans by clicking on this link.

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