The High Frontier
The High Frontier
The High Frontier, Space, will be a lot higher after the last shuttle mission returns to Earth in several days. Thirty years and three months ago the first shuttle, Columbia, cracked the Florida sky on a column of fire. The late Jules Bergman called it “Yankee Lightning”. Friday marked the last, sad chapter in America’s manned Space program. After Atlantis is retired, the United States will no longer have the ability to send astronauts to our Space Station. We will be dependent on the Russians at the tune of $50 million per person to launch our people into space. I thought that we won the Space race?
On May 5, 1961 Alan B. Shepherd was the first American in Space with a short 15-minute sub-orbital flight. Yuri Gagarin, the famed Russian cosmonaut was the first man to orbit the Earth a month earlier. Shepherd was followed by Gus Grissom on July 21st and we were never headed. Eventually, six of the seven original Mercury astronauts went into space alone. Gordo Cooper on May 15, 1963 was the last American to go into Space alone, 22 complete orbits. NASA followed those successes with the two-man Gemini flights. After a disaster that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the testing pad on January 27, 1967 the entire Apollo spacecraft was re-engineered.
After four successful test missions Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 we these words: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The following day, July 21st Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin. What a moment for all of us who had the opportunity to witness one of the greatest moments in human history live. Here it is for those of you who didn’t. Only 12 Americans has walked on the surface of the moon. Only Americans have orbited the moon. To this day only the American flag flies on the Moon. John F. Kennedy’s promise to land men on the moon and return them safely to earth was fulfilled.
Looking for a new challenge NASA conceived of the International Space Station. Started in 1998 it is scheduled for completion in 2012. The bulk of the components were made by the United States and Russia. Some of the Russian components were financed by the U.S. also. Europe, Japan and Italy contributed components. Most of the crew members are now and have been either Americans and Russians with specialists of other nationalities included in various rotations.
The Space Program has contributed mightily to America. It is above all the visual representation of American exceptionalism. NASA coordinated thousands of scientists and technicians in a number of massive engineering programs over a 50+ year span. We have put men on the moon, built a Space Station in Earth orbit, sent probes to Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and beyond. We have put the massive Hubble Space telescope into orbit in order to learn about stars that are billions of miles away. The Space Program has benefited not only we Americans but the world. Here is a link to some of the benefits.
With the end of the Manned Space program we will see a decreasing interest in Space in general. Remember this: no bucks, no Buck Rogers. Without Buck Rogers we will have no more heroes and role models. Who admires an unmanned space vehicle?