STS-135, the last in a long ling of Space Shuttle missions, takes off in less than 12 hours time. I have mixed emotions.
On one hand, it’s sad to accept that NASA will, at least for a time, have no manned space capability. They simply won’t be able to launch their own astronauts into space and will be completely reliant on Soyuz. It’s also sad that Obama overturned the one good thing George W Bush did in office when he scrapped NASAs future manned missions. America has different priorities, I suppose. For example, The US spends more on air conditioners for their troops in the Middle East than they do on NASAs entire budget.
On the other hand, I’m kinda happy that the Shuttle is being retired. Coming out of the Apollo programs of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a need was identified for a reusable manned orbiter that could shuttle astronauts, experiments and equipment into low earth orbit. The premise for this need was to reduce the exorbitant cost of the “one and done” space capsules of earlier NASA programs. But at $500 Million per launch, it was anything but cheap. And the turnaround time was designed to send dozens of missions into orbit yearly, but that schedule was certainly never delivered. The money spent to maintain the Shuttle program has cost many other unmanned and scientifically significant missions their own chance at success.
So we’re left with an fairly impotent Space Administration with no real goal to aim for, and no foreseeable future perhaps until changes are made to US foreign policy which might free up some cash.