On Friday morning this week, Atlantis is set to lift off on the last ever Space Shuttle mission. I’ll have more on the demise/de-emphasis of manned space flight during the Obama administration at PJM in time. (A story on Apollo 8 and the leading role of the American space program is here at PJM.) Private companies under the Obama plan are expected to make up the difference. But so far private companies haven’t even been able to do what NASA accomplished in May 1961: put men into space. Worse, Russia now has the edge in space for the first time in a long time.
Those of us who remember Young and Crippen’s April 1981 flight of STS-1 remember a time when space flight didn’t seem as routine. The Space Shuttle changed that. The white winged vehicle clearing the tower, the thunderous multi-engine roar, and eventually the steep glide home remain technological marvels no nation has replicated. Thirty years of shuttle launches end this Friday. In 1982, Rush (the band, not the radio host) captured the magic of Young and Crippen’s first flight after an invite to the Cape to witness STS-1.