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Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The Shuttle
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:45 pm

NASA sends shuttle to space, debris fears arise

NASA successfully launched space shuttle Discovery on Tuesday, but anxiously reviewed video showing debris falling from the craft during liftoff, the same problem that caused the fatal Columbia disaster 2-1/2 years earlier.

The debris did not appear to hit the shuttle during the smooth morning blastoff, marking a triumphant U.S. return to manned space travel after the long struggle to recover from Columbia’s breakup over Texas.

On the one hand, I am quite pleased that the shuttle took flight, although the debris situation is somewhat concerning. I will say that today’s launch was not as dramatic (to me, anyway) as the first launch after the Challenger disaster. I was in college when that launch took place and recall sitting in my car in the parking lot of the law firm where I had a part-time job to listen to the actual take off. It was a clear relief with the launch went off without a hitch. For some reason I can conjure that day in my mind as if it happened yesterday, rather than almost 17 years ago.

On the other hand, I am concerned that the shuttle is getting too old-waaaay too old. I distinctly remember getting up early to watch the shuttle take off when I was in middle school (STS-1 was on 4/12/81) . While I am hardly an old fogey, that was a while ago. And when one considers that the shuttle was primarily designed and constructed in the middle 1970s (Enterprise was built in 1976, although it wasn’t meant for spaceflight), meaning that most of the technology that originally went into it was from the late 60s/early 70s (in terms of original design and concept-with the tech being from the late 70s by the time Columbia went into space), that makes the orbiter one old piece of equipment in techno-years. I know we used aircraft for a loong time (e.g., the B-52), but please, we are talking space travel here.

If we, as a country, are going to be dedicated to manned space flight, we need to move on to the next vehicle or vehicles.

I will confess to a great deal of romantic attachment to space exploration (being that I was captivated by Star Trek as early as 5 years-old, perhaps younger), so I know my views on this topic are somewhat biased. Still, it seems to me that there is substantial gain to be had in knowledge and it economic benefit in the ability to venture beyond our planet. Granted: it may take a true profit motive for it to actually happen.

Regardless of where we go next, it certainly seems that the time of the space shuttle should be coming to a close-and I hope that it is a graceful exit, not a tragic one.


  1. […] tle Talk
    By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:56 pm

    It would seem that Sean Hackbarth and I were operating on the same wavelength today: Discovery had a successful launch. I have mixed feelings. IR […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » More Shuttle Talk — Tuesday, July 26, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

  2. Ad Astra Per Aspera!

    (sorry, sci fi geekess)

    Comment by Meezer — Tuesday, July 26, 2005 @ 8:59 pm

  3. The space program needs to continue, it provides us with so much, however, it needs to be able to fund itself… The problem is exactly what you said we are using technology that is 50 years old… the idea and concept of a rocket is that you get a whole bunch of crap and stick it in a container, then throw it overboard real fast to make you move…. it would be like getting in a car full of bowling balls and throwing them backwards really fast to get the car to move….. this is stupid…. we have got to find a way to make space economically viable!!! Why are we throwing away money on systems that wont work? They have an idea that involves a sort of a space bridge, same idea as a sling shot, hook a very long cable to earth, and the other to a large object out in space, because of centifugal force, the large object is pulled away from earth pulling the cable tight, now just stick an elevator on the cable and you are in outerspace in 8 hours for 100 dollars. Come on people lets get this thing together!

    Comment by Dlrion — Wednesday, July 27, 2005 @ 7:51 am

  4. one considers that the shuttle was primarily designed and constructed in the middle 1970s

    As long as they don’t get rid of the 8-track player in the new crafts, I’ll be glad to see a new space vehicle replace the Shuttle.

    Comment by kappiy — Wednesday, July 27, 2005 @ 2:52 pm

  5. I am pretty sure that those are quadraphonic sets, too.

    Most groovy.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Wednesday, July 27, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

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