Well, that’s it for the time being folks. Or at least it will be once the space shuttle Atlantis touches down after its mission to the International Space Station.
The launch last Friday marked that least time for an unknown number of years that U.S. astronauts will be sent into space on a U.S. launch vehicle. For the foreseeable future, NASA will be hitching rides from the Russians.
Which is a fine as far as it goes but even as the relative routine of manned space flights launched from the Kennedy Space Center lulled the public imagination into a state of somnolent indifference, it is to be hoped that its complete absence will serve as a wake-up call.
“Let’s light this fire one more time … and witness this great nation at its best,” shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson said before the final launch.
Times are hard, money is short and the space program needs to run a tight fiscal ship. The same ship, however, should not be entirely grounded.