Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Farewell to the space shuttle

The space shuttle was the technological marvel of the age, operated by brilliant engineers and brave astronauts. I remember the mid 70s, when the first space shuttle Enterprise was being flight tested, mounted on the back of a modified 747. Crowds of people watched TVs in the store windows in the mall, as chase planes filmed the stubby craft separating from the 747 and taking wing on its own.

Still, I actually hope that the era of manned space flight is over, and its resources repurposed to unmanned missions. I haven't seen any numbers, but I'd be surprised if the reusable shuttle flights were really any cheaper than the old one-use Saturn launches. Plus, the unmanned missions--the planetary probes, the robotic landers, the space telescopes, have all been much more productive of scientific knowledge than lofting some elementary schools bean sprouts garden into zero gravity.