A picture perfect landing for the Atlantis Space Shuttle ends the 30 year Space Shuttle program. But let’s hope this is not the end of the American Space program as it has enriched and enhanced our way of life.
Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida touching down at 5:56AM on July 21, 2011. This was Atlantis’ 33rd mission and the shuttle program’s 135th. But what’s next for NASA is uncertain.
NASA officials contend the space station is its focus, but it no longer has space ships to take anyone there. Plans to replace the shuttle with new rockets that can carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids and Mars are beset by budget and design issues. The commercial rocket companies are making progress, but also face uncertain funding, and are unlikely to carry astronauts before 2015.
The benefits of the Space program are move than just national pride. Technology innovation spawned from NASA has touched all our lives. For example, smoke detector technology came from the Skylap, a 1970’s space station built using millions of American tax dollars. NASA developed a smoke and fire detector technology for Skylab that some considered overkill. But this $19 household gadget is credited with saving countless lives.
Start in the 1980’s our mentality shifted toward profit based. Everything, including human life, was seen in terms of cost. And success was measured by the bottom-line. If a project produced profit it was good. However, if profits could not be tabulated on a spreadsheet then it was deemed of little value. But short-term profit thinking can have big costs in terms of long-tern vision. And cutting costs is not the same is increasing efficiency.
It is important as citizens that we hold out government accountable for how they spend our money. But it is just a critical that we keep those in check who try to squelch “big picture” progress to advance their short-sighted political agendas.
Let’s hope the American Space program and all its benefits do not become a causality of our own short sightedness.