Friday, July 8, 2011

The End of an Era: Farewell to the Space Shuttle

It's the end of an era for the Space Shuttle today, as Atlantis blasted off from Florida. Bound for the International Space Station to deliver supplies, mission STS-135 was the final launch in the Shuttle programme which began in 1981.

In its 30-year history, the Space Shuttle programme and its orbiters Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Endeavour and test orbiter Enterprise have seen triumph, including delivering the Hubble Space Telescope and helping to complete the International Space Station, and disaster, with the loss of 14 astronauts and two shuttles, Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003), and still people are fascinated with the scientific discoveries, bravery and heroism of manned space flight.

(Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

At this stage it's unclear what will become of America's space programme - plans to return man to the moon and then on to Mars were shelved shortly after President Obama came to office - and Americans are divided on whether there should be a space programme at all. On one hand

it's costly to send men into space and yet on the other so many of our scientific and technological discoveries can be traced back to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programmes of the 1950s/ 1960s.

Whatever lies in store for manned spaceflight, the Space Shuttle will hold a special place in the hearts of many people across the globe and today definitely marks the end of an era.

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