The end of an era

As someone who grew up with the NASA manned space program as a beacon of innovation, strength, and hope for the future, it is a sad day for me, and I’m sure for many others.

Atlantis lifts off on NASA's 135th and final shuttle mission, STS-135

While at ICCC6, I had the honor of once again meeting Dr. Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and the only geologist to ever walk the moon.

I made sure that my children met him, and he surprised me the next day by offering two signed photographs. A most gracious man and I offer my sincere thanks. He, like many others, must feel simultaneously a sense of pride and of emptiness today.

My family and I watched this final launch this morning, I made it mandatory to witness history, even if only on television.

et tu NASA?

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Related news from Aviation Week:

 Lawmakers Seek To Kill Webb Space Telescope

A House panel recommends killing the Northrop Grumman-built James Webb Space Telescope, calling the Hubble successor “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.”

Overall, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee backs funding NASA at $16.8 billion in fiscal 2012, a cut of $1.9 billion to President Barack Obama’s budget request, according to a committee statement. The subcommittee is scheduled to approve its draft of the spending bill that also covers the Commerce and Justice departments on July 7. The bill still must pass in the full House and be reconciled with a Senate version before becoming law.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) defends the committee’s decisions. “Given this time of fiscal crisis, it is also important that Congress make tough decisions to cut programs where necessary to give priority to programs with broad national reach that have the most benefit to the American people,” Rogers says.

NASA’s future space telescope has run into its share of trouble, going $1.5 billion over budget and seeing its launch date slip at least three years.

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171 thoughts on “The end of an era

  1. I am in favor of space exploration, but manned missions to space, as of now, contribute nothing to our knowledge and exploration of space. A review of the Space Shuttle’s history shows it to be a very dangerous and expensive way to launch satellites.

  2. One day, Anthony, I’m sure we’ll be sending people to various places in the cosmos. I view it as an interlude. One day, NASA and our govt will get their priorities right……… one day.

  3. …but manned missions to space, as of now, contribute nothing to our knowledge and exploration of space
    I guess Hubble was a waste of time? I’m sure a lot of astronomers would disagree.

  4. One thing history has show time and time again is, to generate interest in doing something/having it done is to have humans do it. In spite of the costs, in spite of the risks, tax payers felt better about putting Hubble into orbit rather than a rocket.
    When we lose the human aspect of exploration, we lose the interest. When rockets and robots do the job, the interest and fascination are lost, technology seems so much further out of reach.
    With any luck, we find a way to walk the fine line of cost/expense while keeping the fascination and dreaming intact. Otherwise, we run the risk of future generations losing interest…

  5. The failure to continue with the Shuttle or some variation on the theme rests solely on the Administration’s inability to keep the US economically strong and expanding–they’re always patting themselves on the back for being the progressive party of science, education, foreign policy, hope and change, but when it becomes obvious their folly in all areas prevents us from going forward, one can only describe their governing approach as “FAILED”. The end result is that they’ve fully embraced an attitude of “No we can’t”.
    It is definitely time for a change for the better.

  6. Manned space flight has been tremendously costly in lives and treasure, and has produced little that could not have been produced sooner, safer and cheaper with robotics. I’m glad to see the end of throttle-jockey thrill shows and geopolitical grandstanding. Perhaps now we can out more money into the actual science.
    REPLY: I can see this line of thinking being relevant hundreds of years ago too. For example…
    Christopher Columbus: My queen, I want to send ships and men to explore the great unknown beyond the horizon. It will be historic and will broaden our understanding.

    Queen Isabella:
    It is too expensive and dangerous, let us wait for the future when robotic sailors are introduced. That will be the time./sarc
    – Anthony

  7. Nonegatives says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:05 am
    Hubble was not a manned program.
    REPLY: Bzzzt! Sorry. Hubble would be a useless myopic hulk in space (or burned up in the atmosphere by now) if man hadn’t gone out to fix the optics and maintain it’s electronics and fuel. It every sense, the program was dependent on the manned space program. Now that the JWT is in trouble, and with no manned space shuttle, care to wager how long Hubble will stay working? – Anthony

  8. The space shuttle is and still is safer then driving a vehicle or even flying in an airplane. You see, it was designed that way to be ultra-safe, the only people who claim it is not are those who like to repeat the myths that its a killer and like to in general spread fear and panic.
    As far as expensive, yes, it was that, which is why it did need to get replaced at some point, but note I said replaced and it did not get replaced. One of the things that President Obama promised during his first campaign was to increase NASA funding. Then he turns around and scraps their original missions, and increases their funding to junk science such as global warming. I am still fairly irritated about this, to just scrap the next thing because it went over price. What has not gone multitudes of over-priced in Gov.s? This was just a cheap excuse to kill something he hated…
    Who will explore and innovate like NASA did to get us to the moon on a manned mission?
    I will tell you, no one, because a mission like that does not see profits that are easy to quantify. But it did provide us with so much technology…look up the Palo Alto lab of xerox’s for some more information on what “un-temperered” research can produce.
    Xerox might not have made as much money as others did on some of that technology developed..
    But alas, it is an end of an era. The US is now just another nation which has to rely on others for space.

  9. Rafer Hoxworth/8:54 am, July8/2011
    He doesn’t think the end of the Space Shuttle is sad because it added “nothing” to either our knowledge or exploration of space, and was”a very dangerous and expensive way to launch satellites”.
    Indeed, in the details there is little “value”. At least that is how an accountant might view things. But accountants see nothing further than the end of the next cost-revenue period, which can be a two-week payroll consideration. The loss of the Shuttle program is not the sad thing, but that there is nothing really to replace it. Our (Canadian, Russian as well as American) desire to stretch our boundaries has fizzled. Considering the foolishness of climate change costs, there IS money to go to the Moon, to develop new technologies and abilities that could push mankind into the stars. But the vision – as so quickly and well reflected by the position of RH – has gone and its worth, dismissed.
    Back in the day the space program was attacked for being a waste of money and effort when “real” problems such as poverty and hunger still afflicted the human race. Forty years on those “real” problems still exist – and will exist for the next 400 years, probably, because mankind in its struggle between the gain of individuals and the gain of the societal group, consistently rewards the individual rather than the group effort. The here and now concerns will remain; our true struggle is to work towards the future regardless of might be considered wasteful or ineffective or misdirected in the present.
    If the Shuttle program was to be finished, if the Space Station was to be allowed to fall into the sea, if planetary probes were to be put on-hold for now because all our efforts were to get a self-supporting Lunar outpost going, there would be the sadness of nostalgia. That is different from the sadness I, for one, feel. I feel the sadness of an end of dreams, an end of possibilities. It took a great effort and incentive – a war-to-the-death philosophical struggle with Communism – to get the space program going. All it took to stop that program was the need to bail out a corrupt (incentive-wise), inefficient, bankrupt auto-maker or two. The money had to come from somewhere else.
    And that is sad, indeed.

  10. Some people are excited by space exploration.
    Some are excited by controlling how much sugar your kids breakfast cereal can have.
    Some folks follow dreams, find knowledge and create wealth.
    Others kill dreams, are in thrall to myths, and redistribute and destroy wealth.
    So the shuttle is dead, and NASA is engaged in Muslim outreach and climate fraud.
    But some of us can still wave the flag and be proud of what our nation has accomplished.
    sic transit gloria, I’m afraid — we’ve been nibbled to death by the socialist ducks.

  11. Sending humans to space is very expensive as you need to bring a lot of things to keep them alive with them there and you need to deliver them back safely. What’s the point in sending humans to Mars if you can send a whole flotilla of probes and even get some samples back for the same money without humans involved (and getting in danger). Much less people will hate you if an automatic probe crashes than if the same happens to a manned mission.
    The point in sending humans to space is in them doing things automats can’t do, but as long as automats are becoming gradually better, humans are gradually less needed there.
    We’re still very far from creating habitable ecosystems on other planets, we still don’t even understand out own.

  12. Oh common people, cheer up.
    With no shuttle to burden them, NASA can focus more intently on their outreach program.

  13. The sad truth is, no matter how much we admire the shuttle program, it is/was a white elephant. It was a prototype reusable spacecraft whose program should have gone back to the drawing board with new technologies to build a new spacecraft long ago, probably as soon as the Challenger disaster. This program ran 20 years too long, it still uses 1960s era materials technology, and only 10 years ago did they get anything resembling a modern computer installed into the birds. Columbia hadn’t yet received its upgrades when it broke up on re-entry (if memory serves right). For those who doubt my assessment on this, please remember that JPL has never re-used a spacecraft, all of them are new each time. The last mars launcher was sending back amazing pictures because it had the latest and greatest CCD technology in it, ditto for all other unmanned missions. Manned U.S. spaceflight has been stuck in the 60s technology wise, and the shuttle program was part of the reason for that.
    I liked watching the shuttles, I liked watching what they could do. But it was a proof of concept that should not have been held onto. The Russians kick our ass in cheap manned missions because the shuttle costs too much to refurbish and ready for each new launch. The shuttle program survived criticism because Florida didn’t want to lose jobs and lobbied to keep their launch prestige.
    The bid for a shuttle replacement in Clinton’s final term was our best chance to replace the shuttle with modern technology. Unfortunately they selected a project that wasn’t quite ready for primetime, and couldn’t survive congress when cryogenic fuel storage problems manifested. Of course that problem was solved post-cancellation. Since then, we had Bush Jr tell us to go to Mars but take too much time re-directing NASA. And Obama who pays lip-service to space exploration while telling NASA to become cultural outreach and funding social services instead.
    In a perverse way, the end of the Shuttle program is likely to be a boon for NASA. The shuttle program was a bit of a head weight around it’s neck. So long as all that money to refurbish and use the shuttle had to go to the shuttle, it couldn’t go towards anything else more grand. Now with no shuttle program to worry about, when someone asks NASA to shoot for higher, there is less going-concern to get in the way.

  14. The long history of the shuttle program (from its initial conception to the present) prove to me just how inefficient the government can be at getting a job done. Once we beat the Soviets to the moon, the public lost interest in manned space and a combination of William Proxmire’s career building at the expense of NASA and the general sentiment of “can’t we solve our problems on earth first?” served to slash the space program’s budget year after year. Throughout the seventies, the initial concept of the shuttle and its mission was repeatedly downsized and re-purposed to serve political objectives rather than scientific.
    We ended up with a vehicle that fulfilled few of its original objectives.
    Rather than beating the Soviets, I think the U.S. would have been better served finding ways to capitalize on space. Like we did with communications satellites. Anything that makes a frontier profitable assures a flow of fortune-seekers and entrepreneurs into that frontier.
    For that reason, I now look at the activities of organizations like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic as our best hope for an expanded human presence in space, and thus more research and development of space-related science and technology.
    Anthony, I agree that it’s sad the shuttle program is being retired … I watched today’s launch with tears in my eyes. But the shuttle was almost stillborn to begin with. None of the followups to the shuttle materialized, and neither the Delta Clipper nor VentureStar came along to replace it. Downsize NASA and give private industry a shot now.

  15. A very sad day indeed. Felt very acutely here in Houston. But NASA must shoulder much of the blame. The shuttle is a marvelous machine, but its lack of a compelling plan for the future of manned space flight over the last 20 years (with a clear path forward for the next generation of space vehicles) and the absence of compelling manned missions expose a stagnant agency more interested in maintaining the status quo than looking forward. Shuttle needed a successor 15 years ago, yet there is none even today. It’s agonizing to note that Dr. Schmitt left the lunar surface nearly 40 years ago and that no one has been back since. Moreover, if we wanted to return today, it would take another 15-20 years to develop the capability, despite the incredible advances in so many areas over 40 years. It only took 8 years the first time.

  16. The the first time since I was a baby, the United States now has absolutely no manned space flight capability.

  17. Obama and the Democrats will obliterate real science in favor of the current voodoo science we see spreading like a plague. Totally agenda driven.

  18. BenfromMO says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:19 am
    The space shuttle is and still is safer then driving a vehicle or even flying in an airplane. You see, it was designed that way to be ultra-safe, the only people who claim it is not are those who like to repeat the myths that its a killer and like to in general spread fear and panic.

    The generally accepted estimate for the chances of a catastrophic failure of a shuttle is 1 in 100 missions. As of today, the Shuttle program has had 2 catastrophic failures in 134 missions.
    It is *NOT* safer than flying or driving.
    Sorry, I didn’t see a /S

  19. I have very mixed feelings on this. NASA bet big with the shuttle that it would be a cheaper way to space. Instead, it turned out to be so costly that it created an opportunity for Ariane Space to become the commercial launch system of choice by the mid-80’s (and with the end of the cold war, the Russians became another source). We were on the moon 8.5 years after Kennedy challenged NASA to do it. 8.5 years after the Columbia disaster and the decision to stop using the shuttle in 2010, NASA still has the replacement vehicle on the drawing board. My father worked on the space program in the 60’s and for JPL from the 70’s until his retirement so I always immersed in the American space program. It is sad to see NASA immobilized by the bureaucracy it created. Its very hard to be excited about the space program any more.

  20. Like Anthony, I grew up inspired by NASA’s accomplishments. However, it is time to retire the shuttle and move on to a better and more cost effective way to access LEO. Commercial Space is the answer for servicing the ISS. Boeing, ULA, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corp all have skin in the game and are looking to be tested and ready for crewed flights by 2015 (SpaceX and Boeing by 2014). Thanks to the CCDev program we’ll have at least two independent systems providing access for a magnitude less (cost) than the Shuttle Program.
    Far from giving up or getting depressed, take a look around and see that we’re about to see a very exciting time in the arena of manned space flight.

  21. NASA is a government agency and most government agency’s are inefficient or become inefficient. In the long run space exploration will be done by private companies more efficiently because it is their own money not money from taxpayers and people are less likely to waste their own money. NASA should be devoted to protecting Earth from asteroids. A project that can not be done by private companies since it will not bring in any profit.

  22. Jeremy, I was a bit skeptical of Ben’s methodology, but upon reflection I think he might base his statement on “per mile flown”. A typical mission could easily have the shuttle traveling three or four million miles. Still, given the sheer number of jetliners in the air at any one time, I’d expect flying to easily remain safer than “shuttling”, but I bet we can tease the numbers to make the shuttle look safer still!

  23. Next year, all being well, Virgin Galactic will send the first paying passengers into sub-orbital flight.
    That’ll be the start of the new era.
    In another half century people will think it strange that at the start of the 21st century we still expected government programs to lead the way into space.

  24. To paraphrase a statement made by a certain wife of a political figure, never before have I been so disappointed by my country. For the first time in my memory we do not have a method of placing a person into orbit. While I understand the importance of robotic space exploration, and its many contributions, I am reminded of the last Apollo mission to the moon. A geologist was sent to the lunar surface and for the first time a true scientist was looking for what was important. His finds were fantastic and advanced lunar understanding significantly.
    That was why the space shuttle was an outstanding platform. Much like passenger aircraft the capacity to have a professional astronaut crew with subject matter experts allowed for some great strides being made in research. Now it is all lost and the best we can do is hitch a ride with someone else. There has not been a robot constructed or AI programmed that can match a human in problem solving, exploration, assembly, or general maintenance. Yes robots have advanced significantly, but not to the point required to replace a human.
    Is human space flight expensive? Yes it is. Is it valuable? Yes it is. Given the paralysis of the government, maybe the only option will be to have the private sector do it from a hardware standpoint. I shake my head when people mention the danger aspect of spaceflight. Life is never without risks, be it driving on the road, eating food, or flying down a snowy mountain jumping 100′ just for kicks. I am so glad my ancestors were not so scared of adventure, otherwise we would still be living in caves.

  25. On a more serious note.
    With the “obvious” waste of money that NASA is… and it’s failures. I guess we should have never even bothered with that troublesome exploration idea. That would have been money better served by putting it in programs that help people pay for stuff like…. cell phones or LCD/gas plasma TVs…. or buy baby formula.
    http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/index.html
    From another site:
    “The first integrated circuit — the forefather of the modern microchip — was built by Texas Instruments but funded by the Apollo program and the Air Force’s Minuteman Missile Project,” Mr. Lockney said. “They developed it, but the customer was NASA.
    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09201/985039-51.stm#ixzz1RXBIn6MQ
    “In the 1980s, [researchers were] working to use algae to clean water and recycle air and perhaps use as a food source during long-duration space flights,” Mr. Lockney said. “During the experiments, they discovered a unique nutrient that previously had been found only in breast milk. Today, that nutrient is marketed in 95 percent of all baby formula sold in the U.S. and countries around the world.”
    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09201/985039-51.stm#ixzz1RXBcHVtB

  26. Last night here in the UK I watched a documentary on the history of the Apollo missions. Was there ever a more inspiring and moving moment in all human history than when Apollo 11 touched down at Tranquility Base? Even today, it is thrilling to hear those calm radio messages passing between the astronauts and Houston. And now, Americans can travel into space only by hitching a ride with the Russians.
    The Chinese are planning a manned mission to the moon and, I have no doubt, to Mars. The Indian space plans are also developing quickly. But for the United States, manned space exploration is over. How profoundly sad. I just cannot understand how Americans have managed so quickly to lose their courage, sense of adventure, confidence and can-do attitude – the qualities that summed up a great nation and won the admiration of the world. The decline of America is tragic, and not just for Americans.

  27. It’s hard to believe Obama and his Administration are responsible for the lack of a replacement for the space shuttle. The space shuttle was cancelled during the Bush Administration (as planned and as it should have been). The Obama Administration can’t be faulted for not coming up with a replacement for the space shuttle in 2 and a half years he has been in office.

  28. It’s hard to believe Obama and his Administration are responsible for the lack of a replacement for the space shuttle. The space shuttle was cancelled during the Bush Administration (as planned and as it should have been). The Obama Administration can’t be faulted for not coming up with a replacement for the space shuttle in the 2 and a half years he has been in office.

  29. M.A.DeLuca II says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:53 am
    Jeremy, I was a bit skeptical of Ben’s methodology, but upon reflection I think he might base his statement on “per mile flown”…

    Well, paint the statistics any way you want. No human in their right mind would ever own a car that had a 2 in 134 chance of exploding each time you turned the ignition key.

  30. Do not be sad, yee hearty space faring lovers!!!
    I have loved the ideas of mankind in space and populating the universe since that very first science fiction book that I read at 13. It was Asimov’s first book of the Foundation series. The idea of space inhabitation has been a lifelong love affair.
    Then there was the very solemn moment when the first man stepped on the moon. It was dreams coming true.
    I think for sure mankind will widely & permanently expand beyond the earth then go to the stars BUT it will be by entrepreneurs spearheading it by private funds and creating new wealth by doing it. It will not be by government bureaucracies and taxed funding.
    Quickly mankind will, by private enterprise, play and live among the stars . . . . . and those who do not have the dream or think it is a waste of money will be irrelevant because it will be privately accomplished. : )
    John

  31. Aaron says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am
    “The Obama Administration can’t be faulted for not coming up with a replacement for the space shuttle in the 2 and a half years he has been in office.”
    Actually, he can be faulted for changing the mission focus of NASA to that of an “outreach program”.

  32. Aaron says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am
    It’s hard to believe Obama and his Administration are responsible for the lack of a replacement for the space shuttle. The space shuttle was cancelled during the Bush Administration (as planned and as it should have been). The Obama Administration can’t be faulted for not coming up with a replacement for the space shuttle in the 2 and a half years he has been in office.

    Bush cancellation of the shuttle carried with it a mandate for a new vehicle that could service the moon and beyond. They were actually in the early stages of building an Orion crew capsule as I understand things. Obama cancelled Constellation (that program). You can’t lay all blame on Obama, but he did take down the last flag.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constellation_program

  33. With regard to manned vs robotic space flight, I see this as life imitating art.
    If anyone thinks that Isaac Asimov’s robot novels were nothing more than a science fiction yarn then they should read them again to get the whole premise behind the humans vs robots theme: As humans develop robotic systems, their tolerance to risk becomes lower and lower and finally exploration stops, only to be started again by a somewhat artificially-created antagonism to robots. Asimov might have been a biochemist by training, but it is easy to see his interest in human psychology and – in this respect – he has been shown to be quite accurate and prescient.
    I alternate between hate and love for astronauts; hate because they are just too damn wonderful (multiple PhD’s, multiple languages and half of them play some kind of musical instrument!), love because they do a great job of making exploration human and exciting. I hope this isn’t the end of manned space flight ‘cos even an oldie like me can dream – I was 6 when Neal Armstrong took his “giant leap’, but still remember being allowed to stay up late to watch it live on a tiny b/w TV.

  34. In grade school I stayed inside during recess to listen to the Mercury suborbital flights. In college my first substantial program written for fun was to simulate an Earth orbiting satellite. I started losing faith in NASA and government in general when the Apollo was canceled. While expensive, I look forward to private enterprise leading the way. (Or China – at this point I don’t really care who takes the next steps to spreading civilization throughout the solar system.)
    Apollo was primarily an engineering mission (okay, it was primarily a political mission), but it was nice they moved Harrison Schmitt’s mission up to get it into Apollo 17. He was the only geologist to walk on the moon. One of the highlights at last year’s ICCC was meeting him and discovering he is also a really nice guy.
    Oh well, maybe in another decade or two we can start claiming the Space Shuttle missions were faked, just like the Apollo missions. Putting glasses on an orbiting telescope – only Hollywood would do something that silly.

  35. The NASA of the ISS and Space Shuttle programs is not the NASA of Gemini and Apollo. It had become another seriously overbloated government bureaucracy. Time to say goodbye. As John Derbyshire has asked – Q1. What is the purpose of the Space Shuttle? A1. To service the ISS. Q2. What is the purpose of the ISS? A2. To give the space shuttle something to do. And that is the problem with NASA today.

  36. Something I wrote on the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing: “One small step for…oops.” Includes photos I took from the television at the time (not very good, but historical), and a brilliant video “proof” that the whole thing was a hoax (very good, but definitely not historical).

  37. Nonegatives says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:05 am
    …but manned missions to space, as of now, contribute nothing to our knowledge and exploration of space
    I guess Hubble was a waste of time? I’m sure a lot of astronomers would disagree.
    ***
    Gee, Nonegatives….. I did not know that the Hubble was a manned mission.

  38. This shuttle design was the worst possible one from the original 1970’s competition. Just go back and look at the better designs that should have won the shuttle competition. The designers of the current shuttle have admitted that they falsified their total cost numbers by lying about the turnaround time, and, boy has this been expensive. This particular shuttle has been a huge waste of money, and as anyone can see from the SpaceX designs, there are better, cheaper, more reliable systems to be had. So, good riddance.
    The Webb telescope isn’t the important one. The planetary finder (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrestrial_Planet_Finder ) was the important one, and, it’s just been canceled. The most interesting thing in space right now is finding planets, and, my understanding is that the Webb won’t contribute to that.

  39. Astronauts sign for the job. They know the risks and the rewards. It’s not like they have a gun to their heads to force them to go in space. They have and live for the right stuff.
    As the inquiries into the two shuttle accidents have shown, it was not really problems on the design of the shuttles but mainly administrative and communication problems that cause the failures.
    I think that manned flight will continue, but as with the rest, the administrations prefer to let their business friends take over the space flights. The government will have to rent space vehicles from private companies to do space exploration. Those won’t be cheap. Like anything else, renting is more expensive than owning. Their friends will make a lot of money with this situation.
    I do think that manned space exploration must be done to advance mankind in this hostile environment since, like Hubble, we might need human intervention to save the planet from a cosmic catastrophe.

  40. This is indeed a sad day. Apparently NASA has much more important tasks now other than expanding our understanding of the universe. It seems that studying climate change is more important than space exploration. That is why this is so sad, because NASA is now a prime example of government corruption and individual greed merged together.

  41. Let’s not forget that the NASA programs over-rode air force work to develop space-capable planes. That goal is now closer to fruition than it was before. Riding into space on a bomb looks cool, but has always been inefficient. Let’s develop space-planes and ways to shield people from cosmic-rays before we tackle the next frontier.

  42. I had the honor of meeting Dr. Schmitt at the AAPG back in April. He autographed my copy of his book, Return to the Moon. He, Scott Carpenter and Jim Reilly (an old friend of mine) gave a great talk on the space program at the all-convention luncheon.
    Dr. Schmitt talked about his ideas for returning NASA to its true mission – Aeronautics and Space operations. A good summary of those ideas can be found in the preface to his collection of essays in Space Policy and the Constitution.
    Dr. Schmitt also co-chaired a session on Astrogeology. There was a “funny” exchange between Dr. Schmitt and an economist presenting a paper on lunar mining of Helium-3. Dr. Schmitt told the economist that he was wrong about some aspect of his presentation (I forget the details).. The economist said that he’d be happy to provide his sources – Dr. Schmitt said, “I don’t need them. I was in the room when it happened.”

  43. The shuttle program has its high points namely the Hubble Telescope and the many flights to service this program. However, from the heady days of landing man on the moon to suddenly confining NASA to near earth orbits lacked the romance and excitement of the 60s Apollo Program. To me at least the shuttle program was a long backward step in history, waste of money, talent, and public imagination. All the incredible knowledge and ability of the Apollo Program have to be relearned at tremendous cost, time, and technology. I for one am darn glad the shuttle program is done and over with – good riddance.
    I know somewhere alive today are humans who will set foot on Mars! That’s exciting! That’s the dream I want to see before I kick the bucket. We have the skill, talent, technology, and will to bring mankind together again as we did with the Apollo program. To once again reach down into the school systems and give something to kids to dream for themselves – this is the future that awaits you and your mates. THIS is why we need children to dream dreams like I did. Dreams of their own. Most of all we as a species MUST venture beyond the confines of this planet if we are to survive as a species in a virtually infinite universe. Every atom in each of our bodies on this planet are made of star stuff – or as Carl Sagan said – “We are all star stuff contemplating star stuff.” Was there life on Mars? If there ever was our entire view of the cosmos will be thrown completely on its head – then we are not alone in the universe. I wanna know!

  44. Rob Potter says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:13 am
    … As humans develop robotic systems, their tolerance to risk becomes lower and lower and finally exploration stops, only to be started again by a somewhat artificially-created antagonism to robots….

    Asimov suffers from a lack of understanding of human nature, however. People did not risk everything to colonize the “new world” for any reason other than real-estate. Robots cannot deliver you more land to live on. Eventually it will be cheap enough for high-middle-class people to leave Earth and try to survive elsewhere. When that happens, robots or not, everything changes.

  45. Rafer: Manned space flight is not so much about expanding our knowledge of space that is a very meager goal. Manned space flight is about expanding the reach of human kind.

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    CivilEng 411: Henge Construction
    GS 200/Religion 490: Human Sacrifice Made Simple.
    Note: All Space Engineering graduate programs are discontinued immediately. Equivalent Gaia Studies graduate degrees with contemporary social relevance will soon be available. Both Slave’s and Master’s programs are now in the planning stage for 2014.

  47. I also grew up with the person’d (LOL) space flight program. I watched the lift-off of the first Apollo moon shot, heard the famous “That’s one small step” remark.” I was also high as a kite when the first shuttle touched down at Edwards. I was in a grad school design studio at the time – someone had brought a portable TV and a great cheer went up. A buddy & I talked excitedly about doing a space station as a joint thesis project. I got a way-cool-in-a-geeky-sort-of-way poster of the shuttle which adorned my bedroom wall for years.
    But that was then, when I was young & naive and still thought that NASA was a scientific organisation. I was sickened by the Challenger disaster (and enlightened by Feynman’s demonstration of the brittle o-rings – very few people knew at the time that he was in near-constant pain from stomach cancer, and had donated several precious months of his remaining life to the S.S. commission). After the Columbia disaster I just shrugged and thought “Well, what did we expect? – the most complicated transportation system ever concieved administered by the most labrynthine bureuacracy ever created (or evolved, or devolved, or something).”
    This is the end of an era, but I don’t think it’s the end of humans in space. It’s just a neccessary breather while we re-assess. We can certainly do better than 1.4 billion dollars per launch; chalk the space shuttle program up to experience. Ever since the Apollo Moon missions, NASA has been an agency without a mission – mostly dog & pony shows for the purpose of continued funding. I’d say scrap it but keep the talent & experience – maybe an international space research agency this time (and one that’s focused on getting payloads off the planet and not pseudo-climate research, etc!).

  48. I watched it,too. Man, it sure gets outta town in a hurry. If only my mother-in-law could leave that fast!

  49. JDN says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:24 am
    “This shuttle design was the worst possible one from the original 1970′s competition. Just go back and look at the better designs that should have won the shuttle competition. The designers of the current shuttle have admitted that they falsified their total cost numbers by lying about the turnaround time”
    Another quality product brought you by Boeing™.

  50. If a person never experiences a phenomena, then that person doesn’t understand the phenomena the way they could/might. We weed humans to experience the universe first-hand, or humans won’t understand what they are doing.
    Andrew

  51. As a former NASA employee who made it up the ladder, I can say that as it was being built some of us knew the Shuttle was expensive and much more dangerous than was admitted. One calculation (performed by an actual statistician, duh) indicated 1 in every 47 launches would result in catastrophe (close to what happened). Now, 1 in 47 for a space vehicle that complicated is outstanding — just not if humans are aboard. So, numbers that were uttered were more in the range of 1 in a “very large number” so as not to kill the golden goose.
    And so on. The International Space Station cost 4 times what it was supposed to and (in my opinion) did about 1/4 the science it was planned to do (or less) — not really a surprise to those in the know.
    NASA has a lot of hyper-dedicated, very smart folks making things happen. The problem is that usually (not always) the “direction” is provided by political appointees more interested in keeping budget levels high than in doing the “right thing”. Nothing new about that in Government (AGW comes to mind).
    Anyhow, I devoted my whole working life to NASA and some of my best stuff was on the Shuttle and Space Station. I’m a NASA Patriot. But, I agree, it is an Agency that needs to make its programs “truly relevant” versus “spectacular”. Had we been doing that from the day I was first employed, funding would not be an issue — and our “spacecraft” (not the Shuttle) would still be flying to support a vibrant science program on our “space station” (not the ISS).
    FWIW

  52. It is a very sad day for this country, the country that put a man on the Moon never did anything more than earth orbit in 40 years of human space flight, and now it can’t even do that. It is as if in 1943 people were still flying planes only 100 ft over …the sands of North Carolina, or in 1550 Spain was sailing only 10 miles off the coast of Spain. Maybe, Government isn’t the best organization to expand human achievement beyond the ordinary, to reach beyond the mundane, but at one point NASA did those things. Now all government has to offer are lowly expectations. Listen to any Obama speech and that is all you’ll hear. Don’t cut medicare don’t cut social security, pass healthcare, don’t cut welfare etc,etc, nothing at all about the greatness of this country, nothing about advancing human achievement, nothing at all about the betterment of mankind. No, the only thing we get is attacks on those who have managed to achieve something that betters mankind. Far too many of them have gotten rich through their endeavors, they need to give back, they need to pay even more in taxes, we never get any praise for their achievements. This is not the country I grew up in. In that country we could achieve anything, we could reach our dreams and our dreams included the stars. The end of the space shuttle is just another example of how far we have fallen as a country. We can get it back, but we have to fight for it we have to expect more from this country than just the meager accouterments of survival.

  53. I, too, grew up in the space race era. A great many technological breakthroughs came directly or indirectly from the efforts to reach the moon and beyond. That said, today’s NASA is not the same. NASA of the 60’s had a definite goal with thousands of scientist and engineers all working that way. Today we have no goal for the space program which is why it is seen as an overbloated, beauracratic sinkhole. In order to return the agency to relevance, we must have a clearly defined goal to move toward.
    It seems strange to me that the government would shut down the one program that has shown any return at all.

  54. Jeremy says, “Well, paint the statistics any way you want. No human in their right mind would ever own a car that had a 2 in 134 chance of exploding each time you turned the ignition key.”
    Quite a few race cars face that kind of odds during a race, yet companies, consortia, and a few lunatics own and/or drive them. They may not be in their right minds — *I* wouldn’t race the things — but there are enough to do it, and plenty to watch. And the cost is no small change, either. Worse, they end up where they started.
    Accountancy has powers, but they don’t cover all of human behavior.

  55. The shuttle was an example of American Exceptionalism, thus it had to end.
    Americans must now apologize for being so exceptional.
    /sarc

  56. I think it is completely, utterly, bonkers, humungous insanity, to not have developed a new system that can take over now the moment they scrap the old. It’s like they’ve been doodling for 30 years. And now the old immensely cheap soviet system will reign supreme for maybe ten or more years, because the EU won’t chip in all that much (too expensive apparently) on the new systems, and US won’t back it neither with the funds actually needed because of the state of the new and approved US socialist economy.
    But another 240 billion dollars a year they want to spend on climate research to save us from climate change by changing the climate back to what it was in ’88. EU is on board with it this too, so they’ll let the billions of tax euros flow freely as well.
    NASA does NOAA who does ONR and also tries for USGS. USGS who tries to not be overrun by EPA who do whatever as long as it is in the political realm of the World Wild Life of the Greenpeace Fund.
    I can understand for profit organizations branching out into new areas of research, even federal funded organizations such as JPL, going away from their core research and business into, for example, oceanographic research, that’s all sound business 101 strategy: but only if the business is booming, otherwise it’s just the feeble death woes of a dying business trying to grab a hold on to anything for survival, as in trying to keep the organization equally fat of projects and employees as it was when it was at the top.
    Would the thing called green technology even exist if it weren’t for everything researched for space exploration? Neither hydro nor airponics would probably not exist if not for the possibilities of furthering space exploration, and certainly not for the cheap price it has today that pretty much anyone can afford it.
    Space exploration has given us everything from proper mattresses to use to ultra cheap hand held water purification tubes, and even solar cells. And for the last 40 years, pretty much, for pennies.
    Even the automobile industry gave us proper tech for pennies but only because of availability of coal and oil. All that was needed was the incitement to make more money by being the best.
    Green funded tech has given us bird choppers and subsonic animal sterilizers and CO2 to trade on a NON regulated market, and are spawning mad scientist wanting to suck stuff out of the atmosphere or add other stuff to it. And not to forget far far less tax funds to use for real research.
    Sound investment yields real tangible cheap technology, not more and more expensive vapor ware. So if the branching out isn’t doing to well, scale back and go back to core business, as usual.

  57. The driving force for the putting a man on the moon was cold war military. The USA needed to re-establish it’s high tech reputation, and also not cede the high ground to the Reds. The Reds went bust. Mission over. The military still have needs and a shuttle, just the X-37B is not a manned shuttle and so it a lot cheaper and one of a a range of miltary lift options selected for the mission needs. Shuttle is a carriers looking for a mission.
    The Sature V was impressive. Raw brute force showing the USA a a biggest baddest guy on the block. The shuttle was an ugly duckling showing her age with little notable success other than keeping Hubble going. It would have been cheaper to stick to maintence free space telescopes.
    If you want to make folks dream, you need an X-15 spaceplane. Shuttle was just a money pit!

  58. “A small step for man – a huge step for mankind”, 1969. That WAS huge! (I was at time in service in Africa). But what has ‘happened’ since, up to today…? Well, considering the huffing & buffing on & around the ‘matter’ of CO2 (ie. Mr. Hanson etCons) as being what it is / or not / one cannot label the NASA’s ‘work’ and ‘actions’ being anything else than driving a scientific unproven and false thread in order to conjure with some form of a ‘world order’. And that + mny more ‘scenarious’ scare the sh*t out of me…
    Good work – keep it up!
    Brds from Sweden
    //TJ

  59. Ric Werme says on July 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

    In grade school I stayed inside during recess to listen to the Mercury suborbital flights. In college my first substantial program written for fun was to simulate an Earth orbiting satellite. I started losing faith in NASA and government in general when the Apollo was canceled. While expensive, I look forward to private enterprise leading the way.

    Actually, Ric, I think you will find that having the government do it is far more expensive. Private enterprise brings costs down, in my experience.

  60. Having just turned 41 yesterday, the Shuttle era has defined the majority of my living memory. It is truely sad to see them go. Young children of today will remember them only through photos in history books or a visit to a museum. I doubt there will be a comparable replacement for the Shuttle in my lifetime, unless the Chineese build it.

  61. Thirty years ago whilst I was at school in England we were all allowed to go into one of the classrooms and watch the first ever launch of teh Space Shuttle. I remember at the time being awed at the speed with which it cleared the tower compared to the old rockets and inspired at the idea of a brighht new future of space exploration.
    I am immensly saddend by the end of the programme, believe it was entirely the wrong decision and consider this one act of vandalism against the aspirations of humanity for which I will never forgive the current US administration.
    The Space Shuttle programme has been a huge success and for me, watching the last liftoff this afternoon, this was a day of great and enduring sadness.

  62. Cancelling the Shuttle will hopefully end the 40-year long federal monopoly on manned space flight. The reason costs have increased while operability and safety have decreased is entirely due to lack of internal or external competition for manned space flight here in the US. Break that monopoly and allow a marketplace to start up and you will go a long way toward decreasing costs, improving safety and operability if for no other reason that the newSpace guys don’t have to carry around the standing army of tens of thousands that NASA currently does.
    And a bureaucracy with a monopoly will always defend that monopoly. For example, in the early 1980s, Klaus Heiss led a group of investors and made an offer to purchase a fifth orbiter and give it to NASA. They thought they could make money scheduling and filling unused cargo bay volume and mass on the remaining shuttle flights. They reportedly had $1 – 1.5 billion in the bank. They were slow rolled until the investors went elsewhere.
    The newSpace guys starting with Virgin Galactic are already bending metal on suborbital and orbital hardware – manned and unmanned. They will compete for customers for bodies and cargo into space. NASA will end up chartering flights rather than being owner-operators. This is not a bad thing. We even have Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace which has flown two station modules based on the old transhab that they intend for commercial visitors. SpaceX built a booster and capsule somewhere between one tenth to one hundredth the money already spent on Orion. And they flew it once already. Do a search under the keywords newSpace and/or the Space Frontier Foundation for more info. There is a lot of very good stuff going on in the commercial space sector.
    Disagree with previous Hubble comments. Early servicing missions were absolutely required. However technology continues to move and a good economic case could be made that it would have been better to build new very large diameter mirror modern telescope(s) than visit Hubble the last couple times at $1 billion a pop.
    The real tragedy of this retirement is turning the orbiters into lawn ornaments like they did with the flight hardware of the last 3 cancelled Apollo flights. There are a number of wingless orbiter concepts that have been floating around for the last 30 years that would convert the orbiters into 150 ton, turnkey, manned or man capable, one shot space platforms. The orbiters should be sold to the highest bidders, converted and retired on orbit. Cheers –

  63. We are merely in the middle of a Depression, and an incompetent national administration headed by yet another political hack. There is no way we won’t rise back up to advance the dreams of space adventure, begun by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells over a century ago. I am 63, and I may yet go myself. You never know…

  64. What the hell nearly everything we buy is made in China and India so why not have our space program, if that is what they still call it, dependent on the Russians.
    If our leadership is demonstrating the US is not exceptional by destroying the ability of the US to succeed they may be proving we are not exceptional in our choice of representation.

  65. Richard Sharpe @ 11:26 am
    I agree with you, private enterprise needs to operate on market principals, which means that it has to produce things as efficiently as it can (if it has competitors that produce similar products that offer an alternative to the target market).
    Anthony’s referring back to Columbus’ voyages made me think of something else: in the beginning of the development of “the New World”, the voyages were so expensive and risky that no private company would do them. Looking at the risks involved against the expected rewards, it’s not surprising. Only after governmental bodies had paved the way and shown it could be done repeatedly and (mostly) safely did the private bodies come into it. Today, there aren’t a lot of governmental agencies that actively transport people across the Atlantic (though there are a lot of regulators that make a living watching, limiting, protecting, and controlling those companies that do). I see the development of space being similar, but don’t know that the economic reasons for going to and beyond orbit are sufficient yet. Communications are a great start, but without real, concrete products that are made better and cheaper in space I don’t see any beanstalk elevators in our near future.

  66. Unless and until science throws off the shackles of Newton’s and Einstein’s “Gedanken Dogma” our species will never get off this mortal coil. If you thought Climate Science was a crock you ain’t seen nothing. Cosmology is the largest continuous scam in the history of science. They can’t even tell you what light or gravity IS let alone know HOW THEY WORKS and after two decades of searching LIGO is a total failure. But if you give them another couple of billion they may be able to come up with a mathematical reason why. Maybe Higgs is Surfing Gravity Waves in Another Dimension.
    If science wants a Unified Theory then they can start by discovering what Heat, Light, Electricity and Gravity together have in common. As long as they are treated as four separate entities we aren’t going anywhere.

  67. To people saying the shuttle is unsafe. Let’s look at actual numbers (from 2006):
    Soyuz (1967-Present)
    ——————————
    Flights: 95
    Failures: 4 (2 non-fatal)
    Failure Rate: 4.21%
    Cosmonauts Flown: 228
    Fatalities: 4
    Fatality Rate: 1.75%
    Shuttle (1981-Present)
    ——————————
    Flights: 116
    Failures: 3 (1 non-fatal)
    Failure Rate: 2.59%
    Astronauts Flown: 692
    Fatalities: 14
    Fatality Rate: 2.02%
    Soyuz Failures:
    Soyuz 1 (1967), Soyuz 11 (1971), Soyuz 18A (1975, Non-Fatal), Soyuz T-10A (1983, Non-Fatal)
    Shuttle Failures:
    STS-51L (1986), STS-83 (1997, Non-Fatal), STS-107 (2003)
    —————————–
    The shuttle isn’t so bad, is it? Remember, Challenger was a DECISION mistake, choosing to operate in known unsafe conditions. That is not the same as an accident when all seemed well, like Columbia. And even Columbia was a freak accident of foam hitting directly on a landing gear well seal, not actually from the damage to the heatshield itself (last I read of the reports).
    What caused all the Soyuz accidents? If the shuttle is so bad, then the Soyuz must be just as bad, eh? Modern technology could easily take the shuttle and spit out a shiny new model that is vastly superior safety wise to what it is right now. And for a lot less than the Constellation program’s idea of starting from scratch.
    People… I honestly don’t know where such strange perceptions come from. Reactions to an explosion I guess, blown (haha?) completely out of proportion.
    Oh well, apparently we’ve lost our ability to dream in this nation! Unless it’s about iPads and iPhones and other shiny gizmos that aren’t necessary for life or our future as a species.
    And those saying sending people into space isn’t useful: of course it is, as it is vital we learn how to spend people to space, learn how to live in space, learn the effects on space, and develop better techniques through time to make living in space more beneficial and safer for us. After all, if we’re going to go to another planet, it’ll take a lot longer than 15 days! But abandoning sending people into space effectively grounds our species just on this one rock. Just the knowledge we’ve gained so far is INSUFFICIENT for the future. Every mission adds more.
    This is a sad, sad day. Not just because it’s the last shuttle flight, but because of what it shows of us as a people.

  68. Ellen says:
    July 8, 2011 at 11:23 am
    Quite a few race cars face that kind of odds during a race, yet companies, consortia, and a few lunatics own and/or drive them. They may not be in their right minds — *I* wouldn’t race the things — but there are enough to do it, and plenty to watch. And the cost is no small change, either. Worse, they end up where they started.
    Accountancy has powers, but they don’t cover all of human behavior.

    To relate this to the original discussion:

    BenfromMO says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:19 am
    The space shuttle is and still is safer then driving a vehicle or even flying in an airplane. You see, it was designed that way to be ultra-safe, the only people who claim it is not are those who like to repeat the myths that its a killer and like to in general spread fear and panic.

    I stand by what I have said in light of the original subject. Take that down whatever path you want. The Shuttle is not safer than a modern 4-door sedan or commercial plane flight.

  69. I should add, at least things are not all gloom. Thank goodness for Space X and other private ventures.
    Going to space will always be dangerous, people need to get over that. It takes a lot of energy to blast off a planet, and a lot of danger coming back through an atmosphere. Get over it people. It’s why astronauts are heroes, risking themselves every time. And you know what? Every time we’re learning more and getting safer. But we’ll never make progress without risks! So, here’s to Space X and the rest, doing privately what the common man of this country (or at least our leaders) apparently no longer have the guts or bravery to do.

  70. It certainly is the end of an era. 50 years from now, or even 20 years from now, it will be interesting to see which nation has the most numbers of their citizens in space and/or on the moon and Mars. My guess, China by a wide margain, and the U.S. won’t even be second. This is a period of sea change for the world, as power, money, influence, and technological advance shift from the west to Asia, and even South America. Before you get upset about me saying this, realize that I flew my U.S. flag on July 4th, Memorial day, and several other times this year. But I also am not blind to the tides of history, nor the excesses in spending the U.S. has been guilty of. A day of true reconing is upon us. It is time to pay the piper, and the withdrawal of the U.S. from manned space flight for a period (longer than some might suppose) is one sign and consequence of this, but will be far from the most extreme. Why would we want to continue with a manned space program that we have to borrow money from the Chinese to operate? Once we get our financial house back in order, we might consider manned flight once again…

  71. Anthony’s comment comparing NASA’s manned space flight program to the dispatch of Columbus is blind to the fact that in 1492, Isabella didn’t have the technology to do the job with unmanned caravels and robots.
    The tremendous cost in of building human life support into our space vehicles was totally unnecessary and a dead weight on our progress in space. The one time human presence was needed was the Hubble repair. But for the cost of flying throttle-jockeys, we could have put up a dozen more Hubbles. The much-vaunted International Space Station will fizzle out within the decade without accomplishing anything significant. The manned space adventure was mostly a Cold War propaganda mission that was unnecessary and rather pointless. Good riddance.
    REPLY: my goodness, what a sourpuss you are.
    With that attitude science exploration of any kind would never get anywhere. Note the /sarc tag which I added since you obviously didn’t get it the first time.
    -Anthony

  72. Anthony, your Columbus analogy doesn’t work. Spain didn’t send Columbus out to explore for the grandeur of exploring. His job was very specific and mercantile: to find a more efficient way to get natural resources from the East Indies. NASA’s mission was never that specific, and the benefits (if any) have been accidental.

  73. Gary Swift,

    “… Young children of today will remember them only through photos in history books or a visit to a museum. I doubt there will be a comparable replacement for the Shuttle in my lifetime, unless the Chineese build it.”

    This was a very real worry for me, so I drove my five-year-old boy down to Florida last February to catch the final flight of Discovery. We watched the launch, then examined all the exhibits at the visitor’s center. He was extremely excited about that trip, and continues to talk about “his” shuttle.
    I actually got into an argument with his school’s administration over the trip. He was in kindergarten and they thought four days of structured finger-painting and recitation of the alphabet were more important. I insisted that the chance to see one of the most amazing engineering achievements humans have yet accomplished, along with an exposure to the historical perspective on space flight afforded by the visitor’s center could very well spark a strong interest in science and engineering … something which the public school system has demonstrated a woeful inadequacy at. And that’s not to mention the benefits of going on a thousand mile trip and seeing new surroundings. Ultimately, I had no choice but to accept an “unexcused absence” on his school record. That’s okay, he’ll remember those four days far better than any others from kindergarten.

  74. Just like Canada lost their brightest minds when the Avro Arrow program was abruptly canceled. Those skilled engineers when to NASA to develop the Apollo program. Maybe it is time they come back to Canada to continue their dreams.

  75. bwanajohn says:
    July 8, 2011 at 11:22 am
    It seems strange to me that the government would shut down the one program that has shown any return at all.

    Well, there’s DARPA. They pioneered this one communications medium, I forget the name of it, but it’s really cool. DARPA still exists, still comes up with new challenges. NASA is definitely not the only game in town that has a positive ROI.

  76. The integrated circuit award eventually went to TI, but several companies were working on it. TI had better lawyers. And it happened before the Apollo program started. The loss of two orbiters was mostly due to bad management. They knew they had an “o” ring problem, but since they had no catastrophic failures, back burner. And management overruled the rules about launch temperature (it was too cold that day) I was at KSC two days prior to Challenger, have photos, and looking at the weather, decided not to stay, as it would be too cold. NASA also knew about the foam problem. In 2000, they switched to non-CFC foam on the main tank and saw a 10-fold increase in damage to the orbiter. But, nothing catastrophic, so they stayed with it. Hubble was an equal screw up, used the wrong mirror (to keep a certain Senator happy) and only cost $1 billion+ to fix. It wasn’t their money. And the ISS? The astros spend most of their time fixing and little hard science. The Super Collider would have done far more for far less. JWST is on the rocks, friend worked on that before cutbacks. So, NASA is limited to politically correct outreach. Sad, people in space can do a lot more than robots, (numerous arguments about that) but cost a heck of a lot more. A good geologist could have done what Spirit and Opportunity have done on Mars in less than a week. At probably 400x the cost.
    I obviously have mixed feelings about all this. And very little confidence in the private sector picking up the slack. It ain’t easy getting up there. Goddard knew that 80+ years ago. SpaceX may succeed, but I won’t buy a ticket. End of an era.

  77. NASA is its own worst enemy. For years it has stood in the way of private exploitation of space. There are plenty of companies with the capability of launching men into space, but NASA continues to put up roadblocks to that being done. The best thing that can happen is for NASA to go back to exploration and research and get out of the way of private enterprise. Private enterprise can launch satellites and material into orbit more efficiently and for a lot less money than NASA will ever be able to.
    Also, the Air Force has successfully launched a robotic space shuttle several times for extended work in space. The robot is supposedly completely autonomous so it can carry out its work secretly, but I expect there is still a bit of communication and control from the ground. The robotic shuttle was originally developed by NASA, but the Air Force took it over when NASA decided to drop the program. Astronauts are so much sexier, and so much more expensive.

  78. This is rather funny, but a good example of how government bureaucracies work.
    This is what was proposed to the politicians of Nixon’s administration. This is how “simple” it was proposed it would be to service the Space Shuttle for the next launch. This is how they sold it to congress, the president, etc…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingVision.jpg
    And this is reality:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingActual.jpg
    Yeah, aerospace contractors can be quite dishonest with themselves when government funding is at stake.

  79. The Shuttle Program has done us a great deal of good. We are encouraged to know that its work is now continued by entrepreneurs in the spirit of the Wright Bros and Henry Ford. One example of the astonishing new world ushered in by NASA’s pioneering work is –
    NASA’s Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell has recently acknowledged the number 1 energy development as the LANR-CF physics typified by Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat and Randall Mills’ Hydrino (fast H) black light catalyst.
    This of course rewires the entire energy picture – largely obviating fossil fuels and even sustainable alternatives like wind and solar (though they have their niche.) Methanol/alcohol via CTL and biomass will remain transitional liquid fuels for hybrids and heavy lift applications like trucking. As will biodiesel and bio-jetfuel. But light duty transport will now transition ever faster to EV with E-storage systems being the biggest bottleneck.
    E-Cat-like generators will rapidly replace all sources of electric generation starting with home CHP distributed energy systems. Coal fired power plants, radiative nuclear fission, hydro, wind and solar will become a tiny sliver of the overall energy generation field. The sustainables like hydro, wind and solar will retain some integration with new distribution energy. Big hydro, nuke, and wind projects as of right now go on the shelf – most likely permanently.
    Essentially the energy game is now over. What remains is to see who will clean up by producing and distributing the new energy products. Centralized power is, like climate change – dead. As we have said MANY times in these posts, energy is abundant throughout the universe and we are now to make use of it.
    It is a new world. A world of abundant energy able to create and manipulate matter on an unprecedented scale. It is not to be abused. And it is not to be used as a reason to neglect growing population issues. Population is the number one issue on planet Earth. To address it, some hard changes in old world faith traditions need be made. Starting with Judeo-Christian/Muslim taboos on death, sex and contraception.
    Welcome to the new world. There is plenty for everyone. But let’s have some elbow room please!

  80. I was debriefing from an ASW training flight from Cecil Field and the first shuttle was about to land. We stopped the debrief and all watched as it landed. At the time Cecil Field was a back up/emergency landing field for the shuttle. My second tour in S-3A Vikings from Cecil found me on a training mission in a warning area off the east coast of Florida during the launch of Challenger. We watched it rise then explode. As the only air asset available we offered to be the SAR commander for the immediate area to start the search phase. We were told to hold then told no they would handle it. My last command was in Bermuda and as CTG 84.3 we were tasked with having a P-3 Orion on alert for down range SAR. I was there for over 3 years. We did a fair number of STS alert briefs. Several of the shuttle commanders came to Bermada to give talks so I have met a few. The treasure of my lodge is the father of one of the shuttle pilots Charles Hobaugh.

  81. Retired Engineer says:
    July 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm
    …used the wrong mirror (to keep a certain Senator happy) …

    Uh, what? How did DC politics enter into the curve of glass? This has to be a good story.

  82. It’s the end of a chapter, but not the book – in fact we’re barely into Volume 1. Long-term, we need to have a permanent manned presence in the wider solar system, if only to distribute our eggs among many baskets and guard ourselves against extinction by meteor. By and by, we’ll populate Earth orbit, Luna, the Lagrange points, Mars, the asteroid belt and further afield… There’s enough lebensraum, material and energy out there to keep us reasonably satisfied for the next few centuries at least! Gerard K O’Neill showed us the way in his book The High Frontier – published in 1976. Bootstrapping ourselves up out of the bottleneck of Terra’s gravity well is the hard bit – traditionally it has been expensive and dangerous. But in the very long term, I think that is the way we’ll go, as the rewards will be too great to ignore.

  83. There should always be room for a few white elephants (or what’s a heaven for?).

  84. bladeshearerJack Maloney says:
    July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm
    Anthony’s comment comparing NASA’s manned space flight program to the dispatch of Columbus is blind to the fact that in 1492, Isabella didn’t have the technology to do the job with unmanned caravels and robots.

    Also, being a Royal, she didn’t give a wink if she killed some less-than-pauper sailors in the process. There was no concern for the loss of sailors lives, so the example isn’t so wrong.

  85. R. Gates says:
    July 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm
    “”””It certainly is the end of an era. 50 years from now, or even 20 years from now, it will be interesting to see which nation has the most numbers of their citizens in space and/or on the moon and Mars. My guess, China by a wide margain . . . “”””
    = = = =
    R. Gates,
    I remember late in his life SF author Isaac Asimov also suggested it will be the Chinese that colonize space first. I guess that has some plausibility. Yet China has future civil unrest problems that are just barely boiling underneath the surface, waiting to surface because it remains as a totalitarian state playing at mimicking a modern capitalistic/democratic state. Transition to democracy that will likely occur with some civil violence in the near future will disrupt their space ambitions somewhat or stop them entirely for a long time.
    It is easy to be disappointed with the state of America, I guess, but I still find American spirit survives and is healthy. Get rid of government intervention and away we go. Perk up!!!
    John

  86. The science channel is paying homage to NASA today, starting with Mercury missions and ending with the last Shuttle. There goes my day. I’ve seen the Mercury capsule, to think of that tiny thing strapped to tons of liquid oxygen and kerosene!! Talk about cajones.:)

  87. Apollo and Hubble were wonderful achievements, but our involvement in the International Space Station has been nothing more than an expensive “outreach” to Russia with very little science. Obama’s “outreach” to the middle east will accomplish even less, however it may prove to be another way of transferring wealth from America to the third world!

  88. Richard Tyndall says:
    July 8, 2011 at 11:29 am
    Thirty years ago…
    Richard, when I was in public school they led us to the gym one day to watch the lunar landing. I remember that day so vividly – the black and white tvs on top of those big rolling tables (which years later turned out to be not so big).
    I think NASA needs to reinvent itself. Perhaps deep sea exploration or closer exploration of the planets, landing on a moon of Jupiter etc. But the space shuttle missions have run their course.
    I wonder if the culture of being the only organization to hold the data (who had moon rocks other than NASA) has somehow affected the way NASA approaches climate change. Even the mere mention of Hansen as a NASA scientist has the meaning that he can’t be wrong. So much has changed.

  89. James Sexton says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:05 am
    “One day, Anthony, I’m sure we’ll be sending people to various places in the cosmos. I view it as an interlude. One day, NASA and our govt will get their priorities right……… one day.”
    Sadly James that is exactly what we said in the early 70’s. We couldn’t wait to get to Mars by 2010. The real sadness is that “one day” may never come.

  90. “Back in the day the space program was attacked for being a waste of money and effort when “real” problems such as poverty and hunger still afflicted the human race. Forty years on those “real” problems still exist”
    Well said. The poor will be with us always. Or so prophecy tells us. Thus, if we wait to end poverty before expanding our horizons, it is unlikely we will ever develop the knowledge, tools or resources to end poverty. The reasons are easy to understand.
    It has often been said that the resources of the earth are limited, thus our ability to grow and expand and end poverty is also limited on earth. However, the universe is infinite with infinite resources. Thus, the path to ending poverty must by necessity require us to use the infinite resources that are available in space.
    For example, the asteroid belt beyond Mars. This likely has mineral wealth undreamed of on earth. How many space shuttles could a small asteroid of gold or platinum buy? We will never known, not in our lifetimes. Yet, just a few short years ago it was within our grasp.
    What has changed is not our grasp, but rather our vision. When we look to the skies we no longer see opportunities, we see problems. Rather than see CO2 as an opportunity to develop new business, we approach the problem using taxes, penalties and regulations. Why?
    The bureaucrats have replaced the entrepreneurs as the engine of the economy. Rather than seeking innovation the bureaucrat seeks stability. What is forgotten is that money and opportunity have costs. Tomorrow the price is higher as each of us has one less day of life available. You cannot stand still. Like a person, a country must grow or it will die.

  91. 60 years of manned spaceflight this year, and Nasa’s contribution can be roughly divided into two era’s. The first thirty years with manned flights with the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle. That era ended with the launch of the first Space Shuttle.

  92. Kasuha says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:25 am
    Sending humans to space is very expensive as you need to bring a lot of things to keep them alive with them there and you need to deliver them back safely.

    Some people have seriously proposed a one-way mission. The person being sent would have all necessary items to keep them alive – maybe grow their own veg.

    NASA officials have confirmed that studies are being conducted to assess whether astronauts can be sent on a one-way mission to the Red Planet.
    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20101029/mars-manned-mission-study-101029/

  93. Also, RE: The space webb telescope… We should be putting scopes on the moon. It’s likely easier to maintain orientation stability than a spacecraft, and could be expanded over time as the base platform isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  94. It’s not just America that’s turning it’s back on the technological future. We Brits, and the French, retired Concorde a few years ago without a planned replacement. Where’s yesterday’s spirit?

  95. “REPLY: I can see this line of thinking being relevant hundreds of years ago too. For example…
    Christopher Columbus: My queen, I want to send ships and men to explore the great unknown beyond the horizon. It will be historic and will broaden our understanding.
    Queen Isabella: It is too expensive and dangerous, let us wait for the future when robotic sailors are introduced. That will be the time./sarc
    – Anthony
    * * *
    Maybe you should know that what was required to finance that famous exploration was the spanish inquisition – the most ‘profitable’ enterprise of the era. I’ll grant the man’s valid point.
    The means to that end are wrong wrong wrong. People may ‘need’ heroes, but when their ‘heroes’ did nothing on their own – they are, in fact, rock stars of the U.S.A. and celebrated as much as a favored gladiator in Roman times for the same purposes and reasons. They are not heroic as individuals – such as, say, Burt Rutan who is entirely worthy for the very reasons a celebrity of a predatory institution can never be.
    ‘my queen’ should have been a clue – but somehow it was thoughtlessly overlooked, eh?

  96. I just left a post on Andrea Rossi’s site (inventor of the E-Cat) pointing out that most of the fuel burned during a shuttle launch is expended simply to lift the rest of the fuel. Terribly wasteful.
    With really practical, non-radioactive fusion energy, the cost per Kg lifted to orbit will plummet many fold. Even a shuttle might be practical!

  97. I detect in some of the good riddance and ho-hum responses a complete lack of awareness of the nature of technological development. After Columbus, there was huge demand for shipping and races for New World (and very old world) trading and colonization. This made for bigger and better ships (Columbus’s three boats at 12 to 18 metres keel length were smaller than a lot of yachts parked in millionaire destinations) and ushered in the age of enlightenment.
    So how much money would have been saved if the US hadn’t gone into space exploration, Well you have to measure that against the unimaginable, unprecedented leap in technological developments of the computer age that came out of this stuff. Trillions of dollars in wealth created (Bill Gates himself even had a tenth of a trillion bucks). Impossible strides taken in medical science and essentially all the sciences except for the new brand of political sciences, all industries benefitted – farmers even have computerized seed drills that detect if one of the drills gets plugged – don’t you hate it when your corn comes up with missing rows (lower yields). Resource exploration, environmental mapping, weather forecasting,.,,,,, everything.
    Socialism is killing the US’s lead in technology – gee better spend the money getting more milk for your children,… only without tech development the milk for the children would be a heck of a lot more expensive and you may not have a job, Okay, the rant is over, You all get the point.

  98. REPLY: my goodness, what a sourpuss you are.
    With that attitude science exploration of any kind would never get anywhere. Note the /sarc tag which I added since you obviously didn’t get it the first time.
    -Anthony

    You make the rather silly assumption that manned space flight was the only way forward. In fact, unmanned space exploration has already given us more scientific knowledge of distant Mars than our ‘boots on the ground’ garnered from our nearby moon. Unmanned space exploration was there first, Anthony, and would have progressed farther and faster if NASA hadn’t squandered our technological energies on zero gravity toilets. ;-p
    REPLY: Never made that assumption at all, you did. We can have both, we should have both. Tough noogies if you don’t like my opinion on it. – Anthony

  99. Anthony– It was a sad day for me, too, since I used to help launch those shuttles from up front by those big glass windows. Before that, I was the lead instrumentation engineer for Atlantis. After that I also helped to convert MLP-3 from a “one-holer” (which launched Apollo-11 to the moon in 1969) to a “three-holer” to launch space shuttles. AFAIK, the last shuttle blasted off from “my” MLP-3.
    It was great that somehow they managed to bring back Roberta Wyrick to be the Orbiter Test Conductor for this launch. She was the best OTC that ever was and…unfortunately…ever will be.

  100. Ray;

    The government will have to rent space vehicles from private companies to do space exploration. Those won’t be cheap.

    The depth of your delusion is awesome. SpaceX will be renting access to the ISS at a fraction of the Russian charges, and already designed, built, launched and orbited, launched and recovered, the Dragon capsule (that is/was designed for both cargo and manned use from the beginning; crewed modification and testing has already been authorized and begun — about $76 Million, total) for well under ½ the amount spent on the Orion/Constellation which never even got to bending metal, much less launching it ($0.8 bn vs >$1.6 bn).
    And its intention is to provide inexpensive fast “rented” access to Mars within 10 yrs. And to slash cost/lb to LEO by 10X, and then 10X again, and then possibly another 10X.
    The gubmint (and everyone else) will save HUGE by “renting” from private launchers.
    P.S. SpaceX’s launch costs are already lower than the touted Chinese effort, despite all their advantages of total in-house control and complaint-free labor pool, and the gap is accelerating.

  101. SSam says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

    That NASA is great at self promotion is a given. That it is accurate in it’s self promotion is not.
    Everyone and there brother was interested in integrated circuits back then. For the same reason NASA was. Smaller, faster, used less power. NASA may have put up some of the money that was used in developing one IC chip, but there were other players in that market, at the same time, puting even more money into their development. The Apollo program still used discrete transistors in all of it’s logic boards. By the time the shuttle flew, it was using IC’s, but the IC’s it used were almost 15 years old.

  102. @ mkelly thanks for your service, Go Navy! @ Retired Engineer please elaborate on certain senator, my humble understanding is that the central region of the mirror was too flat by a few nanometers, and, that it wasn’t discovered until first light (pic) May 20, 1990. Inspection of the back up revealed the mistake and the need for a contact lens. Nowhere, can I find any reference to prior knowledge of incorrect curvature. Who was it???

  103. Rafer Hoxworth says: (and similar comments et.al.)
    July 8, 2011 at 8:54 am
    “I am in favor of space exploration, but manned missions to space, as of now, contribute nothing to our knowledge and exploration of space. A review of the Space Shuttle’s history shows it to be a very dangerous and expensive way to launch satellites.”
    There is none so blind as he who will not see………

  104. Jeremy;
    “Asimov suffers a lack of understanding of human nature”? Gaaahhh … try reading the series. Real estate preparation and then transport of humans to it was a major phase of the “future history”. Do not criticize your betters without at least a cursory attempt to investigate them.

  105. There is plenty of profit to be made in space. Mining asteroids for rare earth metals, mining the moon for aluminum and helium-3.
    Additionally, if you want to build craft to go beyond earth, the place to build those craft is in orbit around the moon, using material from asteroids and from the moon. Much of the fuel for such a craft can be created on the moon as well.

  106. Sorry Sean, I did not notice there was already a Sean when I posted the second Sean. bwanajohn says – lots of tech advances related to Apollo. With that amount of money in play, it would be really surprising if there were no inventions. Military spend has spin offs, but is not the only way to fund high tech research. The question is would the USA be a richer and more high tech country if NASA had closed down manned flight after Apollo and gone drone/probe? The unmanned stuff has been breath taking. I got Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Missions. Skylab burning up was the end of era.

  107. Jeremy,
    Everything NASA has done since its inception has had a political component. Some of the cost increases in manufacturing Military and NASA hardware is from the cost of placing major subcontractor operations in every major congressional district to make sure every politician has some skin in the game.
    There were so many better designs than the shuttle, but this program had the most deceptive accounting on the cost per mission numbers. The others were closer to reality, but they also probably low-balled the numbers a bit.
    It would have been better if NASA had done a new redesign of their space launch system every 15 years or so. That would have put the contract up for competitive bid and led to some real innovations in spaceflight vehicles. We are unfortunately doing the same thing to our military aircraft. Fighters should be replaced every 15 years, but the F15 has been the front line fighter now sine the mid 70’s. The F22 is now being cut to the point that in another 5-10 years the Air Force will have to replace everything again.
    I fear the US has lost the will to do anything daring. The people have become selfish and self-centered and the politicians even more so. There are very few statesmen in this generation that I can see and very little vision for the future. I hope someone snaps us all out of this narcissism.

  108. I could never understand why there was never a Shuttle mission into lunar orbit.
    (I bet you could fit a LEM into the cargo bay, or take one up in bits to assemble.)
    Still, the Shuttle did what it was designed to do- build the ISS.
    Pity Ares has been cancelled, now we’ll never get to Mars in my lifetime, as I was promised in 1969.

  109. “REPLY: Bzzzt! Sorry. Hubble would be a useless myopic hulk in space (or burned up in the atmosphere by now) if man hadn’t gone out to fix the optics and maintain it’s electronics and fuel.”
    No Anthony, that’s simply wrong. If the space shuttle had never been built, we’d long since have cobbled together something Soyuz like and used it instead of the Space Shuttle to service Hubble. … Or we’d simply have built another Hubble with proper optics. Either would have been far cheaper than the shuttle which stands as a monument to grandstanding over common sense. In point of fact, the Shuttle was grossly oversold. It overran budgets, slipped schedules, sucked up money like it was going out of style, and never came close to meeting the promise of 40-50 launches a year where it might have been cheaper than the unmanned launches that were largely used instead.
    IMHO, what Skylab (1973-1979) established was that there was no real need for either the shuttle or the space station that eventually became international when even the US could no longer afford that monstrosity. Skylab incidentally was the first of many operational failures for the Shuttle, which could not be finished in time to boost Skylab’s orbit before it was necessary to bring Skylab down.
    My opinion, and I’m sure I’m a minority, is that I was against the shuttle in the 1970s because I didn’t think NASA could build a cost effective, reusable, launch vehicle. I think time has proved me right. We could have accomplished far more with far less money if we’d rejected the silly thing early on. Not a sad day at all, I think. Good goddamn riddance.
    =====
    The Webb observatory? I dunno. I’m in favor of space science. Lots of it. Cost overruns and schedule slips are normal for complex projects. But current estimates of a cost overrun of four times (6.8B) are a lot. (It’ll doubtless overrun more, they always do). And a four to eight year schedule slip? Maybe this is a doomed project and really should be scrapped and started over. My understanding (could be way wrong) is that the optical portion is largely being made redundant by large, ground based telescopes. Maybe try again as a Spitzer (infrared) telescope replacement?

  110. It is never going to be over. It is just the end of the Shuttle Program.
    I never listen to the Media….
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_IV
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constellation_program ( It is still alive until Congress kills it, but they won’t )
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_galactic
    http://www.spacex.com/
    http://www.nasa.gov/about/whats_next.html
    http://www.esa.int/esaCP/index.html
    http://www.russianspaceweb.com/
    And much, much, more….
    Have a great future.

  111. Our fathers built NASA and the Interstate system, while we can’t pay for their routine maintenance.
    There would be plenty to go around if everyone would do their part.
    Slackers rule (via the proxy of bleeding hearts.)

  112. The Russians proved themselves pretty good at low budget high achievement manned spaceflight and space residence. Perhaps a brighter future with a bigger emphasis on co-operation between nations would be more productive. U.S. high tech instruments, European launch vehicles, Russian space station knowhow, plus Chinese rocketry?
    We need more probes in the solar system, I wouldn’t see the loss of Hubble’s successor as such a great loss if it meant more funding for exploration of Jupiter’s moons, Uranus’ strange axial tilt and magnetics, Mercury’s unexpectedly strong magnetosphere, Saturn’s superstorms.
    A better understanding of our local solar system would bring about a better understanding of our planet’s climate systems too…

  113. The era ending is the era of governments being able to do great things. No real leaders enter government service any more. The leaders who will lead the way are in private enterprise. Greatness, going forward, will be defined as being able to navigate the maze of government obstacles to actually accomplish something.

  114. bladeshearerJack Maloney says:
    July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm
    “The tremendous cost in of building human life support into our space vehicles was totally unnecessary and a dead weight on our progress in space. The one time human presence was needed was the Hubble repair. But for the cost of flying throttle-jockeys, we could have put up a dozen more Hubbles. The much-vaunted International Space Station will fizzle out within the decade without accomplishing anything significant. The manned space adventure was mostly a Cold War propaganda mission that was unnecessary and rather pointless. Good riddance.”
    The tremendous cost comes from building, and subsequently, selling something once. The more times you can build and sell it, the lesser the cost. This is why stupid people pay a hundred dollars for one piece for crap that’s selling for a quarter if you pool together to order enough of a quantity.
    However, since the goal was to put man in space and then man on the moon, cost was irrelevant to the progress of reaching that goal. So it was a highly necessary weight of a burden to carry, and just think about it, otherwise, the space industry, however federal funded, wouldn’t have spawned all that it did and you might not have had the time of day communicating so freely since a lot communications problems wouldn’t have been solved that early in the technological evolution (and perhaps never). So since the goal was to put a man on the moon, before the pesky evil communists, everything technological and logistic wise necessary for that to happen was mandatory.
    To my recollection only sov. communists and religious, and green, extremist thought the whole idea of space flight was “pointless”, (the same people now thriving because of what the “pointlessness” gave to technological evolution), but then again they lost and don’t wont to revisit their losses.

  115. Ah Yes, major discovery….. blogging is destroying the AGW theory because I believe most people are reading the comments on AGW articles rather than the articles themselves, and for some reason, skeptics seem to be the most vociferous and succinct with more scientific knowledge at hand.

  116. I’m sure in the future there will be travels to space from the U.S. again. Wonder what’s gonna replace the shuttle?

  117. Still the US Government can spend hundreds of billions on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. That’s OK. Plenty money for that kind of “stone-age” behaviour. You want money to advance science, and add to Human knowledge and perhaps wisdom ? You fools, you want we should make a loss already ? ….. Oy vey !

  118. I started reading sci-fi back in the ’50s and it influenced the path I took through life. I may be old but (to steal a quote from elsewhwere),
    we are made from the dust of stars, and I want to go back.

  119. It is impossible to understand the current state of the US Space Program without understanding how NASA and Lockheed botched the X-33 project. A proper SSX follow-on to the DC-X technology demonstration would have led to fully reusable spaceships and economical, routine access to space. Instead we got another fiasco.
    Calling the Shuttle “reusable” stretches the meaning of “reusable” to the breaking point, if not beyond. “Rebuildable” would be more accurate. An airliner is reusable: after a flight, you top up the fuel tanks, restart the engines and go again. You change out the engines every few years, not every flight or two. You don’t throw away the fuel tanks every flight. Etc. Etc. Etc.
    The amazing thing is that NASA, Boeing and LockMart have not managed to kill SpaceX and the other private launch vehicle developers.
    The main Shuttle program requirement was to provide employment for the NASA Standing Army of government workers and contractors that had been recruited for the Apollo program. In that, it succeeded admirably. In providing economical access to space — not so much.
    Shuttle also demonstrated that certain technologies cannot be used in a system that provides economical, safe access to space. Solid rocket booster technology is one of them. Ultra-high-performance liquid-hydrogen+liquid-oxygen rocket engine technology is another. Naturally, the Official NASA Shuttle follow-on programs proposed to use both. How many billions we will pour down those rat-holes remains to be determined.
    The future of US manned flight into space belongs to SpaceX and its competitors — unless the NASA standing army and its supporting politicians and contractors manage to kill them.

  120. It will be discovered the shuttle has been damaged. With no other shuttles and nothing else ready at the moment, NASA will be unable to send up the needed supplies for proper repair.
    The landing will be risky, but the crew knows they are up to the challenge and are ready to go. However, it is determined by NASA administration in consultation with the White House to avoid having the shuttle program end with catastrophic failure. The crew will be sent back in a Soyuz capsule.
    Faced with having to properly dispose of the shuttle, the decision is made to ditch it in the Pacific Ocean. On full computer control, the shuttle detaches from the ISS and begins a normal reentry.
    To the surprise of many, the shuttle survives, finally gliding down to what would be a perfect landing if on tarmac instead of over water. It hits the water, eventually stops while apparently remaining intact, then begins sinking slowly.
    And YouTube crashes for three days straight as people keep wanting to watch Atlantis slip beneath the waves.

  121. bladeshearerJack Maloney says:
    July 8, 2011 at 9:16 am
    “Manned space flight has been tremendously costly in lives and treasure, and has produced little that could not have been produced sooner, safer and cheaper with robotics. I’m glad to see the end of throttle-jockey thrill shows and geopolitical grandstanding. Perhaps now we can out more money into the actual science.”
    “REPLY: I can see this line of thinking being relevant hundreds of years ago too. For example…
    Christopher Columbus: My queen, I want to send ships and men to explore the great unknown beyond the horizon. It will be historic and will broaden our understanding.
    Queen Isabella: It is too expensive and dangerous, let us wait for the future when robotic sailors are introduced. That will be the time./sarc
    – Anthony”
    I with you Anthony – I’m sure there would have been protesters all around Isabella’s Royal Palace, with clenched raised fits, shouting “We needa the money for the babies and old ones now…..” Others, perhaps Jack Maloney’s ancestors, were screaming that they needed the money to do ‘real science’, like alchemy!
    I find commentary such as Jack offers to be repugnant. They will always be with us, however. For each of us, who would have willingly and gladly boarded any of the shuttle flights for the opportunity to experience extended zero G and gain the 1st person perspective of our beautiful blue planet from the isolation of an MMU in free flight, there will be others seeking safety and security in their personal lives by stifling the direct exploration of the great unknown by their brothers. We see them marching today, shaking their fists and crying “We need the money for the children…. and to ‘do real science’ like AGW!”
    Against this stifling slide of humanity into naval lint gazing, we strive ever to kindle that fundamental desire for direct human explorations of the great unknowns! “We do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!” And in demanding and accepting those hard challenges, we drive the boundaries of human knowledge and capabilities forward, to keep those most basic aspects of the human spirit alive. Explore. Learn. Apply. Repeat.
    Are my eyes a little ‘misty’ today? Yes…… I’ve worked on some Shuttle system bits and oddments, mostly related to the OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System). I’ve worked on other deployed launch systems, as well as R&D programs like NASP, that never came to fruition. From each program, we made great gains, we made mistakes, we experienced and learned how to make our launch systems less expensive and more reliable, and we filled in more areas on the ever expanding map of human knowledge and experience. I’m damn proud to be a part of that great adventure, regardless of the denigrations thrown by the rear echelon arm chair generals out there.

  122. Uh, one thing folks. America has no publicized civilian way to put men into orbit. I would be awfully disappointed if there weren’t a functional fourplace version of the Boeing/AF “Mini-Shuttle” in case we have a defence need on orbit. Its been proofed publically in Automated form, and the life support package can’t be very different that a cross between The Shuttle and the SR71. If not we are in more trouble than I thought.

  123. 1DandyTroll says To my recollection only sov. communists and religious, and green, extremist thought the whole idea of space flight was “pointless”
    Better check your recollections – does the name Yuri Gagarin register? Clearly the “sov. communists” saw a value in manned space flight!

  124. kim says:
    July 8, 2011 at 11:40 am
    > Childhood’s End.
    I never warmed up to Clarke’s story, but certainly a lot of people did..
    My all time SF favorite is “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein. It could make a great movie, and Judy Collins’ song with the same title would be a wonderful theme song and music for an opening sequence. I used to think the movie couldn’t be made until there was a lunar colony, now special effects could fill in since we won’t be getting back to the Moon anytime soon.
    ——–
    End of an era indeed – NASA no longer has the means to launch a person into space.

  125. I’ve always been a little jealous that I was born too late to experience the moon landing. What an amazing thing it must have been to feel such pride and wonder. How limitless the possibilities must have seemed.
    How inane and even obscene is the current garbage that passes for ‘science’.
    It is truly a sad day.

  126. NASA never had a mandate to colonize space, they did exploration and science, and yes, politics (big example is when SS Freedom became ISS and the Russians were brought into the program). Just as the government funded Lewis and Clark expedition pointed the way to the American West, it was private companies and individuals who settled there and created wealth. Today, there are several possible routes to space tourism and possibly later living off planet. Others here have mentioned Space-X and Sierra Nevada and Boeing launch vehicles in development. With real competition, the cost will fall enough that real profits can be made. I come to this site to read about government failing to do good climate science, but I am optimistic about private industry taking over from government in getting people to space.
    Also, I can’t resist being a bit anal:
    “REPLY: Bzzzt! Sorry. Hubble would be a useless myopic hulk in space (or burned up in the atmosphere by now) if man hadn’t gone out to fix the optics and maintain it’s electronics and fuel.”
    ———————————————————
    I wholly agree with your sentiment, Anthony, but IIRC, the Hubble had no fuel or other fluids on board. It was boosted to higher orbit each time the shuttle visited, and it points by using momentum wheels and magnetic torquers to desaturate those wheels. I don’t recall it having control moment gyros, at least in its original launch configuration. But those pesky astronauts kept changing stuff and I didn’t keep track.

  127. The shuttle program was an embarrassing failure with literally only the servicing of the Hubble telescope as a success.
    This is what happens when vision and execution is replaced by bureaucracy and policy.
    And, while I am in no way a supporter of the President, it’s unfair and dishonest to blame Obama on this one.
    Nixon was the president who decided to abandon manned space exploration and go for “cheap” LEO. His and congress’s decisions and a compliant and often dishonest NASA leadership led directly here.
    Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush did no better, some talked a game but no one really engaged.
    And let’s remember, it was Bush who decided to pull the plug on the shuttle and its pal the ISS… both already flat-lined.

  128. Don K says (July 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm): “In point of fact, the Shuttle was grossly oversold. It overran budgets, slipped schedules, sucked up money like it was going out of style, and never came close to meeting the promise of 40-50 launches a year…”
    Sound familiar? 🙂
    Although I was ga-ga over the shuttle in the early days, I long ago joined Don K and the other shuttle “skeptics” on this thread. In retrospect it was the height of folly to require that “wetware” (astronauts) accompany all hardware (sats) into orbit, at huge expense (and no little risk) to the former. Now that NASA is out of the shuttle business, maybe it can concentrate on science and leave the deliveries to the future space FedEx’s (Ha! SpaceX! I just got that!)

  129. The Space Shuttle was a magnificent achievment given the state of technology at the time of its development. The shuttle will be remembered in future as the first true spaceship. Much has been learned through 30 years of operation that will contribute to follow on vehicle designs. A manned space program is essential to the preservation of the species. Without an off planet presence the next large Asteroid or Cometary impact will end mankind!

  130. The demise of NASA was predicted in Larry Nivens “Fallen Angel” in 1991, I think it was. The Greens are in power all over the world, and “technofiles” are hunted down. I recommend the book, it even talks about climate “Scientist”‘s publishing alarmist papers for grants.

  131. I watched the first shuttle launch, and the last. Sad day indeed. What is sadder is the US is no longer a space country, but a hitchhiker to other countries. Who’s next? China, they will put a man on the moon.

  132. I was invited to tour the Space Shuttle part factory that produced the Transducers by John Tavis in 1977. There I saw a black rubberlike compound made in a beaker that, once set, could not be cut. You could break the beaker, but the stuff in it was impervious to sharp instruments, yet remained pliable. A variant of it has made it into such things as Kong Toys for pets, and who knows what else.
    That was a first-hand look at the new technology created for manned space flight.
    Things that eventually we benefit from.
    Looks like we are back to unmanned probes, like the one at Mercury and the one travelling towards Pluto. Mariners and Pioneers will rule the next generation.

  133. I loved the space program, too. I’ll be happy to see it now able to grow in private hands with values I share as the goals.
    I’m not sad to see the political circus go. It was gripping, but very, very expensive. What marked the end of the show was, ironically, international cooperation. Up until the invention of the ‘hi-tech’ device that permitted international cooperation, it was all about cocksmanship, to be sure.
    One must remember that ‘international’ at the time was limited to the USA and Soviet Russia – nobody else was able.
    The device that allowed international cooperation in the first instance was named ‘the androgynous docking mechanism’ which was required by politicians overseeing the Apollo-Soyuz project.
    If you weren’t around at the time, think about the word ‘androgynous’. The cocksmanship was explicit. No Russian or American could suffer the allusion of being on the receiving end of a sexual encounter by ‘mating’ spaceships. It required committees and engineers and diplomatic discussions to work this out.
    That’s what was behind it and I won’t miss that.
    It was a really great show, but it was only a show. I hope we may see the real thing happen.

  134. Now that the Space Shuttle program has reached its end, 3000+/- NASA employees in Florida will join the unemployment roles in 10 days. Why can’t Hansen and Gavin join them too?

  135. A little OT, but what the hey, my favorite ex. of technological inertia. There are several versions out there. This one, wh. I found many years ago, appears to be a conversation between a curious every-person & a slightly obtuse nerd:

    The U.S. standard railroad gauge, the distance between the rails, is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That is an exceedingly odd dimension. Why was that gauge used?
    That’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the US railroads.
    And why did the English build them that way?
    Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.
    Well . . OK . . . why did they use that gauge?
    Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
    Sigh. Well then why did the wagons have that particular wheel spacing?
    Because if they had tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would have broken on some of the old long distance roads in England – that was the spacing of the wheel ruts.
    So who built the fracking rutted old roads?!
    Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.
    And the ruts in the roads?
    They were formed by Roman war chariots. Everyone else had to match those or risk breaking their wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, their wheel spacing was identical – that legendary Roman efficiency at work.
    So in other words, the U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman Army war chariot?
    Yep. Bureaucracies & Specifications live forever.
    The next time you are handed a specification and wonder ‘What horse’s ass dreamed this up?’ you may be exactly right: Imperial Roman Army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.
    And now, the final (for now) twist:
    The Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad has two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. Those are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs (with the infamous unresilient-at-low-temperature o-rings). The SRBs are made by Thiokol Corporation at their factory in Ogden, Utah.
    The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit larger, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory runs through tunnels in the Rocky Mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through those tunnels. The tunnels are slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.
    So: a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago — by the width of a horse’s ass.

  136. “A Hitch Hikers Guide To Low Earth Orbit… or how low the US of A has fallen.”
    Authored by a generation of slackers, naysayers, and grasping socialist.
    Douglass Adams may be able to find the ironic humor in this but I feel only the most profound despair for my failing country and the many comments on this story that applaud our fall from technical excellence. In your dotage, you can recall for your children and grand children that, for a brief 60 years, we Americans had the courage to harness the lightning and ride the thunder…. MtK

  137. At some point, we need to make being in space pay. I’m afraid the way real progress in space will happen is through militarization. Isn’t that always the way it works? Of course, von Braun was a V2 rocket designer.
    Since we are talking about things we’ve seen, I saw von Braun dedicate a satellite tracking antenna in North Carolina my dad worked on when I was a kid. Naturally, at that time I had no idea who von Braun was. Still, I don’t mind knowing I did see him in person.
    I caught the end of Mercury and was glued to the TV to watch all the rest. July 20th, 1969 was awesome, but I really appreciated Christmas 1968, when Borman and crew went to the moon on Apollo 8 and saved a very bad year.
    Another very terrible day was in January of 1986. Well, remember my dad worked in aerospace, in particular on the Titan III that had very similar solids with o-rings. UTC developed a method to prevent Titan IIIC solid failures due to launching on a cold day. The engineers had figured out you needed to hang heating blankets on the solids to keep them warm and remove them before launch.
    Some claim the insulating foam on the external tank was changed to make it more “environmentally friendly”, lacking freon. Well, it was changed. However, Wiki claims the old foam stripped too, and the bipod ramps at the base of the struts were exempted from the foam change. Apparently, envirowhackism was not a factor in the loss of Columbia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Columbia_disaster
    Here is the new plan. I have no confidence we can go beyond the Moon in the Orion. Not without developing serious radiation protection technology for interplantetary space to keep the crew alive.
    http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1417334557
    Finally, take a look at the cool launch pic also at spaceweather.com:
    http://www.atoptics.co.uk/fz648.htm
    Nice atmospheric phenomenon.

  138. Is there an Earth, or even space based, telescope powerful enough that could be pointed at any of the landing sites and see what the various bits of stuff left there looks like now?
    That would be a cool project to mark the anniversary if it’s possible, if it’s not been done already?

  139. Very sad to see the demise of half a century of innovation and daring. Looking in from outside America the US blossoms into a frenzy of inventive innovations when given a national goal, even when it seems a mission impossible. Thus was the space race to the moon, this gave the entire world a great leap forward. I am looking forward hopefully to a new leader in your country that has a vision that spurs America into a new frenzy of inventiveness. Perhaps a manned mission to Mars by the end of the decade with a months sojorn on the surface exploring, especially if it was made public that some oddities had been noted on Mars.

  140. Don’t I remember that bean counters over-riding engineering risk taking is supposed to feature in the decline of the British Empire?

  141. Well, lets be honest here. NASA could probably save a couple bilion dollars if it cut its funding of Real Cimate! 🙂
    Regards
    Mailman

  142. … Not without developing serious radiation protection technology for interplantetary space to keep the crew alive.
    http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1417334557

    Apparently no longer available.
    At ICCC #4 I asked Harrison Schmitt about one of the claims of the we-faked-the-moon-landing crowd, namely why the van Allen radiation belts weren’t lethal. While he mentioned what I suspected, that they weren’t in them long enough, he volunteered that for longer trips, and I think even in the ISS, they can use water tanks as adequate shielding from solar storms. Kim Stanley Robinson used that as a plot device in Red Mars, the first place where I became aware of that shielding.

    Finally, take a look at the cool launch pic also at spaceweather.com:
    http://www.atoptics.co.uk/fz648.htm
    Nice atmospheric phenomenon.

    Oh good, I noticed that and it took a couple second to realize it was glory seen through a wide angle lens. It took another couple of seconds to realize I was also seeing the shadow of the smoke plume against the cloud deck.

  143. Apollo and the Space Shuttle were engineering solutions to political objectives. Apollo, to beat the Soviets, Shuttle, to put California solidly in Nixon’s column for the 1972 election. The problem with political objectives is that once they change, support evaporates and you are left with a non-sustainable solution to a problem that no longer exists.
    The US is broke, so anyone thinking that the glory days of NASA will return are dreaming. If Spacex’s numbers are correct, their Falcon will put twice as much mass into LEO for a third of the cost of Big Aerospace vehicles (Atlas, Delta etc.) That is a sixfold improvement. Even if Spacex is off by a factor of 3 it represents a two-fold improvement. Spacex doesn’t have to maintain plants and suppliers in key congressional districts. Their innovation and freedom to start from a clean sheet of paper is evident in using the orbital maneuvering thrusters to double as the launch escape system.

  144. Look forward to reading the comments, but quickly: I’m a fiscal conservative, however justifying the expenditure on Man in Space (and robots, too, of course!) has never been a question for me. It’s part of our Manifest Destiny (in the best sense of the word), it’s building a new infrastructure for the future, much as building the railroads in the 19th century did (much of that government-assisted), and it’s essential for 21st-century national defense (he who holds the high ground wins).
    Let’s see. The Dept. of Education budget is about $70 billion. The Dept. of Energy’s is about $24 billion. If we abolished the first, and maybe 90% of the second, we could double or triple NASA’s budget and still have money left over (i.e. not spent, returned to the taxpayers). It’s a no-brainer for me.
    /Mr Lynn

  145. Wil says:
    July 8, 2011 at 10:46 am
    . . . To me at least the shuttle program was a long backward step in history, waste of money, talent, and public imagination. All the incredible knowledge and ability of the Apollo Program have to be relearned at tremendous cost, time, and technology. I for one am darn glad the shuttle program is done and over with – good riddance. . .

    For all its flaws the Space Shuttle served one essential purpose: the building of the International Space Station. Yes, I know that kept us in Low Earth Orbit for too long, but if we’re going to live on the Moon, and make long, dangerous journeys to Mars and beyond, we’ve got to learn to live and work in space, and the ISS serves that purpose very well, though it’s only a beginning.
    I’m a big fan of Robert Zubrin’s imaginative schemes for getting to Mars and back with current technology, but supporting humans on long journeys in deep space presents problems we have only begun to deal with: the long-term effects of microgravity, cosmic radiation, confinement in close quarters, etc. The ISS and its Shuttle support system have proven vital tools in learning about these factors. They weren’t a waste; the ISS in particular remains an essential step in The Conquest of Space (to use the title of Willey Ley’s seminal book from the 1950s). Before Columbus took off from Spain, European mariners had to learn about the seas by navigating along the coasts.
    The next step, I think, is a base on the Moon. Will we do it first, or leave it to the Chinese? Remember, it’s a nice place to put missiles. . .
    /Mr Lynn

  146. Mr Lynn says (July 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm): “Let’s see. The Dept. of Education budget is about $70 billion. The Dept. of Energy’s is about $24 billion. If we abolished the first, and maybe 90% of the second, we could double or triple NASA’s budget and still have money left over (i.e. not spent, returned to the taxpayers). It’s a no-brainer for me.”
    Hmm. Abolish two Federal departments (presumably on the theory that government spends money wastefully), but give most of the money to another government agency because government…spends money…uh…wisely? Huh?
    NASA certainly didn’t spend the money wisely last time, why would it do better if it had even more money to throw at problems?
    Let’s just amputate two fiscal black holes and leave it at that, shall we? 🙂

  147. Swings and roundabouts. Put the politics aside, no matter how much further all nations go this century, for absolute enthralling delight the Moon landing will never be equalled – enjoy remembering it was your nation that inspired all the world to a new way of thinking about it and ourselves in ever expanding horizons.
    And, the shuttle was worth every penny just to keep Hubble going..

  148. Gary Hladik says:
    July 10, 2011 at 11:09 am
    Mr Lynn says (July 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm): “Let’s see. The Dept. of Education budget is about $70 billion. The Dept. of Energy’s is about $24 billion. If we abolished the first, and maybe 90% of the second, we could double or triple NASA’s budget and still have money left over (i.e. not spent, returned to the taxpayers). It’s a no-brainer for me.”
    Hmm. Abolish two Federal departments (presumably on the theory that government spends money wastefully), but give most of the money to another government agency because government…spends money…uh…wisely? Huh?
    NASA certainly didn’t spend the money wisely last time, why would it do better if it had even more money to throw at problems?
    Let’s just amputate two fiscal black holes and leave it at that, shall we? 🙂

    Point taken. However, I do think there is a role for the federal government in space, both civilian and military, though on the civilian side it may evolve into basic infrastructure and not hot rockets.
    On the other hand, I would argue that there is no legitimate role for the federal government in education, and only a modest one in energy regulation (keeping track of nuclear material—that sort of thing; certainly not subsidizing ‘alternative’ forms of energy production).
    /Mr Lynn

  149. Myrrh says:
    July 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm
    . . . And, the shuttle was worth every penny just to keep Hubble going..

    Yep. Can’t argue with that.
    /Mr Lynn

  150. Myrrh says: July 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm “And, the shuttle was worth every penny just to keep Hubble going..”
    No it wasn’t. All of that including the repairs could have been done with robots. NASA has not been worth the price for over 20 years, which is how long we’ve been putting up with their lies about AGW.

  151. Mr Lynn says (July 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm): “On the other hand, I would argue that there is no legitimate role for the federal government in education, and only a modest one in energy regulation…”
    Close enough. 🙂

  152. RE: I just cannot understand how Americans have managed so quickly to lose their courage, sense of adventure, confidence and can-do attitude – the qualities that summed up a great nation and won the admiration of the world. The decline of America is tragic, and not just for Americans.
    ===================
    Simply put, we decided at the mass / herd level that it was unsophisticated to embrace exceptionalism, and that we’d be better advised to emulate post WW2 Western European strategies inclusive of vast, expansive social welfare networks. OK, here we are.

  153. RE: Maybe, Government isn’t the best organization to expand human achievement beyond the ordinary
    =============================
    Maybe we need absolute monarchy.

  154. Mark Wilson says:
    July 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm
    There is plenty of profit to be made in space. Mining asteroids for rare earth metals, mining the moon for aluminum and helium-3.
    Additionally, if you want to build craft to go beyond earth, the place to build those craft is in orbit around the moon, using material from asteroids and from the moon. Much of the fuel for such a craft can be created on the moon as well.

    Your targets are too modest. A 1-mi. dia. nickel-iron asteroid in Earth orbit could be readily mined (it’s mostly pre-separated material) for as much precious metal as has come from crustal mining in all history, about $1 million at current prices for every human on the planet. Plus the rare earths, base metals for space construction, and more.
    Helium-3 mining will be unnecessary. pB11 fusion will be mastered and convenient and cheap long before it’s necessary to utilize exotic isotopes. See LPPhysics.com , and maybe TriAlpha, and maybe PolyWell for some near-term contenders.

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