…and so, just like the demise of Concorde, technology takes a massive leap backwards with the blast off yesterday of Space Shuttle Atlantic on the 135th and final mission. Twelve days later it will return and, like the rest of the fleet, be retired to museums. Thereafter American astronauts will hitch as lift on ageing Russian Soyuz rockets returning to earth via a parachuted capsule. It hardly seems credible.
I was 12 years old when STS-1 Space Shuttle Columbia blasted into space on Sunday 12th April 1981. I can remember it vividly, watching with my late grandfather and even placing a microphone next to the television loudspeaker so that I could tape record the launch. It was the stuff of dreams when paired with a majestic landing.
The Space Shuttle has had detractors and two catastrophic incidents however as the most complex vehicle ever built, with 2.5 million moving parts one cannot help marvel that the fleet has managed to clock up over 870 million km and that Atlantis alone has, when she lands, completed 35 missions. It’s launched and repaired satellites and built the International Space Station.
A Republican President, Richard M Nixon, can take credit for it’s creation and, sadly, another Republican President, George W Bush, for it’s demise.
I hope I get to see an equally inspiring return to space by the US in my lifetime.