This video, produced by the Telegraph, is an excellent quick history of the Space Shuttle, from the announcement of the program by Nixon to the announcement by Bush of the next phase of space travel and the end of the Shuttle Program. It includes the great moments and the sad ones. If, like me, you have grown up with the Shuttle it might just bring a little heaviness to your heart.
Tomorrow at 11:26am EDT the last shuttle will make its last journey into orbit. With this launch comes the beginning of the end for America's involvement in manned space flight for the foreseeable future. STS-135 will be the final mission of a program that began its infancy as I was coming into this world and took to the skies as I was just beginning to come into my own. As a boy I watched, from my roof, as the shuttle Enterprise flew overhead atop a 747. It was coming into Tulsa as part of its final assembly and I was in awe. Excited by just the sight, even high in the sky. Since then I have watched or read about most of the many missions each shuttle has flown since April 12th, 1981.
I've lived through both of the great tragedies of the program. The first as a high school student sitting in my typing class ubable to digest the news delivered by a bewildered Principle. The second as an adult waking up to terrible news of destruction I, as was true of so many others, thought would never happen again. .
I'm passionate about space. I believe in the manifest destiny of man conquering the heavens and taking humanity to the stars. The shuttle program wasn't a tool towards that end, but it was a huge step forward. The shuttle helped give birth to the Hubble telescope, unlocking many of the mysteries of the cosmos. The shuttle helped give birth to the International Space Station, which will help unlock many of the mysteries closer to home.
Americans will continue to journey into space, but for some time to come they will not launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Our friends around the world will join together in Russia, ironically, to make the trek to Earth's orbit.
NASA isn't going anywhere, and I know they still plan missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. I hope that I will live to see man walk on a planet not our own. I hope, maybe wrongly, that the man or woman that does set foot on alien soil comes from America, flying a ship of American design, built by American hands. Not because we are better; but to best honor the dream that began in the early '60's, blossomed to reality in 1969 and pushed man forward ever since.
The dream isn't dead. The dream lives on in people around the world. Many of them will watch the shuttle rise gloriously into the sky tomorrow and think to themselves, "One day man will walk among the stars as he now walks upon the Earth." So, as I think on it more this isn't the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning.
To the Shuttle Atlantis and the crew of STS-135 - God's speed and a safe journey.
Space.com recently reported that the Hubble Telescope took some very interesting photos of new found spot on Jupiter. It's believed this spot was created by a recent comet strike on the big gas planet. The size of the spot is immense by Earth standards, the size of our Pacific Ocean. However, on the planet Jupiter it was by shear luck an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, discovered the spot on July 19th.
Due to the special nature of the 19 year old telescope it is able to get visible light photos of the event in a way no Earth bound telescope can. Apparently the plan is for Hubble to take more photos of this rare event in the coming days and who knows what scientists will learn.
It never ceases to amaze me what Hubble can tell us, and everytime I hear about one of these amazing finds I think what will it be like when Hubble is retired and replaced with smaller telescopes that reside in a lower orbit than Hubble. That's an unfortunate side effect of the end of the U.S. Shuttle program next year.
You can find the link to the Space.com article HERE.