It’s the end of an era. The space shuttle Atlantis made it back home safely today and is now officially retired after 25 years of service. Unfortunately there are only two missions left for the space shuttle program before it is completely discontinued.
So how is this fairly important event covered in the mainstream media?
- CNN has it buried under “BP readies ‘top kill’ to cap Gulf oil leak” and “Everyday plastic, toxic fears”.
- MSNBC actually has it prominently on the sidebar! (Thanks MSNBC!)
- FOX has it buried under “BP admits it made critical mistake”, “DOJ Preps for U.S. vs. Arizona”, “Civilians Dead in Bloody Jamaica Battles”, “GOP Rep.: Job Offer to Sestak a ‘Crime'”, “Ahmadinejad Urges Obama: Accept Nuke Swap Deal” and “U.S. Army Outgunned in Afghanistan?”
The space shuttle was so incredible, it became commonplace. Launches were no more spectacular or captivating in the last few years than it was to start a car or make a pot of coffee. But every single time those rockets lit, it took several human beings and the best tools we have right now to the edge of space and then brought them all back. Over and over and over. It went, it came back. It went, it came back.
And now one of the greatest tools and greatest accomplishments science has ever made is now archived. Retired. And the news of this epic denouement is almost muted in the background because of all the constant problems still running rampant in the world.
So now what? Unmanned rockets? Relying on Russia to deliver our cargo into space? Privatization of space travel where only the über-wealthy can go for the novelty of it? Letting the military have the only shuttle program? Chopping up the shuttle and selling it for parts?
Where’s the impetus to further science? Where’s the drive to see what’s what’s out there? What’s the plan for the next step forward here?
Nuts. Nuts to all of this.
Here’s the official press release from NASA…
SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS RETURNS HOME AFTER ITS FINAL PLANNED MISSION
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Atlantis and six astronauts ended a 12-day journey of more than 4.8 million miles with an 8:48 a.m. EDT landing Wednesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010, this was the last scheduled flight for Atlantis. The mission, designated STS-132, delivered the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1 to the International Space Station. Also known as Rassvet (“dawn” in Russian), the module provides additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.
Ken Ham commanded the flight and was joined by Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers.
The mission’s three spacewalks focused on replacing and installing components outside the station, including replacing six batteries, installing a communications antenna and adding parts to the Canadian Dextre robotic arm.
A welcome ceremony for the astronauts will be held Thursday, May 27, in Houston. The public is invited to attend the 4 p.m. CDT event at Ellington Field’s NASA Hangar 990.
Highlights from the ceremony will be broadcast on NASA Television’s Video File. For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:
STS-132 was the 132nd shuttle flight, the 32nd flight for Atlantis and the 34th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.
With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the launch of shuttle Discovery on its STS-133 mission, targeted to lift off in September 2010. Discovery’s flight will deliver the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module to house experiments. STS-133 also will bring critical spare components and a cargo carrier to the station. Robonaut 2, or R2, will be the first human-like robot in space when it flies on Discovery to become a permanent resident of the station.
For more information about the STS-132 mission and the upcoming STS-133 flight, visit:
For information about the space station, visit: