Remembering STS-135, the final Space Shuttle launch, 2 years ago today

JSC2011-E-067588 (8 July 2011) — The space shuttle Atlantis launches for the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station in the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff was at 11:29 a.m. (EDT) on July 8, 2011. Onboard are NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson, STS-135 commander; Doug Hurley,… READ THE REST

Meanwhile, somewhere in Texas…

I was at the first launch. My college roommate was a co-op student with NASA and got us base passes. We almost didn’t see it due to a glitch during the countdown that delayed it a couple of days. It seemed at the time like the beginning of a new era but the Shuttle never matched its design goals. It was always a dangerous flight system. And in the years since then we’ve learned that you can do more cheaper with robots. There was once a reason to send people to the Moon but there no longer is. When humans are on board, most of the expense is involved in keeping the people alive so that they can introduce vibrations and contamination into science experiments that would run perfectly well unattended. Manned spaceflight has been superseded by robots. It is now nothing but cowboy business. There’s something sad about that. Nobody ever dreams about growing up to launch a robot into space.

The design goals were never realistic. There was no way a first-of-its-kind system was going to be the robust, cost-effective, fast-turnaround “space truck” that was projected in 1970. But no one could sell a realistic program of multiple design iterations and flight-test cycles, which would have taken a lot longer and cost a lot more. So we pronounced what was inevitably an X-craft “operational” after four (count 'em 4!) flights, and acted as if we had solved the challenge of cost-effective orbital access.

I wish today’s entrepreneurs all the best, but sometimes worry about the “breakthrough” hype. It remains a fact that airline-like access to LEO is actually much harder – both technically and economically, as a matter of demand, cost and learning curves – than Apollo was.

Unless you’re a robot…

Not sure how this crazy soul stealing bbs technology works but, having worked at KSC for a while I cant really convey the sadness I felt when it was all over. Fuck, who are we anymore?

Why drive to the grand canyon when I can just browse pictures of it on Google? The personal experience of exploring and seeing with our own eyes is paramount in the advancement of spaceflight.

[quote=“xeni, post:1, topic:3006”]
Space fans around the world today mark a bittersweet milestone[/quote]

Funny, I marked the smashing of a gigantic pork barrel.

Darn right they have: we actually get close to our budget and schedule targets now. Particularly since schedule slips flow down to budget overruns.

You have no idea just how big a bureaucratic quagmire a Shuttle mission was. Everyone who could obtain a different launcher would do so.

Because I ain’t a tourist, I have work to get done. What makes you think that either browsing pictures OR naked-eye perception ‘advances’ anything except your own perceptions?

You clearly have no personal experience of the work I have to get done. Which is paramount to your tourism.

You were redundant before the first launch. Both Ariane and Zenit were successfully launching within two or three week’s campaign, using an austere site and crew, for a fraction of the price.

Pjcamp has it. In a single flight, one X-37B racked up more numbers, in at least two parameters, than any STS orbiter racked up in its entire operating life. This is because the X-37s are beholden to military officers, not tourists, and are actually trying to get work done.

Montedavis49 kinda has it. The X-37, the second-of-its-kind system, solved the challenge of orbital access… by ditching the cowboys.

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