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Watch: Space Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off For Final Flight

SpaceShuttle

NASA launched the final space shuttle flight today, an occasion that officially marks the end of the United States' reign as the top dog in out-of-this-world exploration.

As I mentioned briefly in yesterday's news roundup, a majority of Americans hope to see the States regain its celestial crown. From a Pew survey: "Fifty years after the first American manned space flight, nearly six-in-ten (58%) say it is essential that the United States continue to be a world leader in space exploration; about four-in-ten say this is not essential (38%)."

Do you agree? While I think it's important for humans to venture into space, that final frontier, and NASA has brought earth-bound citizens some great innovations -- velcro, anyone? -- ceaseless adventures in outer space interest me far less than taking care of pressing problems here on the home planet.

Watch the historic takeoff, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Comments

  1. We need to do both! A nation that does not dream beyond itself does not grow. When I was a kid we dreamed of space exploration, now kids dream of building bombs and or blowing others up, just look at the vid games.

    Posted by: jim | Jul 8, 2011 1:04:53 PM


  2. @Jim, I would add, the world needs to dream and travel also in the space, it is the very nature of humankind, to search and to study, learn more.
    The lift off is beautiful and powerful.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jul 8, 2011 1:23:22 PM


  3. I agree with both @Jim and @Matt26 on this. The value of a space program is not because it brings us velcro. Rather the exploration of space brings wonder and imagination to our nation.

    Our problems on the home planet are real, but we can pursue solutions to these problems while exploring the final frontier and delivering the magic of space travel to our nation's people.

    I also must say I am excited about the possiblity of private companies and other governments (Isle of Man!) taking a serious look at space. NASA need not be the only player in pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

    A great day and a beautiful launch. Sad the see the shuttle program come to an end.

    Posted by: Seth Ellis | Jul 8, 2011 1:27:45 PM


  4. Small- and narrow-minded thinking on display in the lead-in to the video, I'd say. Yes, emphatically, we need to sustain our undisputed leadership in the exploration of outer space. Regrettably, it seems we now have a president who is willing to let that leadership fade away into mediocrity. The "private sector" that our less-than-visionary president seems to think is the "next wave" in space exploration, will do it for greed, for profits and for power with no magnanimity or interest to do it for the common good of all humanity. Today marks the end of an era. The American Empire slips further into the gutter.....

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 8, 2011 1:40:10 PM


  5. And I agree with Jim and Matt, and President John F. Kennendy --- who spoke elloquently at Rice University in Sept 1962:
    "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
    The whole speach/video is at:
    http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm

    We have problems at home; most of the arguments are around money, like most families. But we spend more than a TRILLION dollars a year on WAR!

    We have to do both ---

    Thanks guys!!!

    Posted by: Daya | Jul 8, 2011 1:47:36 PM


  6. @ Jamal: Obama is no less visionary about space exploration than Robert Heinlein was. And if you don't know who Heinlein was or why Obama's plan would meet his approval, then you don't deserve to comment in a space exploration thread.

    Posted by: Rich F. | Jul 8, 2011 2:45:46 PM


  7. The fact is the space shuttle program has been a huge waste of taxpayer money. How many time do we really need to orbit the Earth? We have been doing it for the last fifty years.

    Posted by: ralph | Jul 8, 2011 3:02:57 PM


  8. There's a big difference between the manned space program and the unmanned-science-based one. In the latter we completely dominate (though the James Webb telescope is now a pawn in the budget wars), but in the manned program, which is largely a jobs program for Florida, Texas and Alabama, we waste money and tread water. We need to cede the manned program to private companies and stick to the science program.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 8, 2011 3:14:48 PM


  9. I agree with all the poetic reasons but I would like to make a pragmatic argument. The Earth has limited non-renewable resources and the long term growth of our race will require the greater resources of the solar system.

    Posted by: PLAINTOM | Jul 8, 2011 3:18:44 PM


  10. I love how when people want to prove they understand the value of space exploration they just randomly pull something out of their ass that they suspect would've probably sounded vaguely "space age" 40 years ago, like velcro, or teflon, or Tang. All of these things were invented years or decades before the first person went into space; their innovation had nothing to do with space at all.

    In fact, I cannot think of a single important and truly novel piece of technology that has come from the manned space program. Not a one. EVERYTHING important with regard to inventions made over the last half century having derived from the space program, have come from the UNMANNED side of NASA. GPS, satellite networks, satellite TV and radio, sat phones, weather prediction and severe storm warning systems, automated GPS assisted satellite navigation, archaeological and fossil fuel resource exploitation, satellite guided agricultural planning technology and on, and on, and ON. Not to mention the EXPLOSIVE growth of highly important scientific discovery that has come from unmanned space technology (Hubble, WMAP, COBE, Viking, Mars landers, Voyager interstellar probes, Galileo, STEREO and SDO.

    None of any of that required a single human ever to be sent into space. Not even Hubble, which could've been launched on a Titan rocket. Aside from relatively minor refinement of existing engineering knowledge, manned space exploration is nice for inspiring kids to get into science, maybe. It is not at all essential. Divert the billions going to the space shuttle program into unmanned space science and the payoff will grow exponentially.

    Posted by: Blake | Jul 8, 2011 4:03:34 PM


  11. I believe we must continue to explore space but it's time to head to Mars and beyond.

    Posted by: jaragon | Jul 8, 2011 5:20:44 PM


  12. yes, continue space travel and exploration. let's think bigger and go farther

    Posted by: jayda | Jul 8, 2011 8:05:03 PM


  13. Fact: Velcro was what doomed Apollo 1 killing 3 astronauts. Wikipedia: "The review board cited how the NASA crew systems department had installed 34 square feet (3.2 m2) of Velcro throughout the spacecraft, almost like carpeting. This Velcro was found to be explosive in a high-pressure 100% oxygen environment. "

    Posted by: castaway | Jul 8, 2011 9:51:59 PM


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