Watching the Space Shuttle launch today


Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six astronauts are headed for space, ready to begin their 16-day mission to the International Space Station. Following a relatively smooth countdown, the weather cooperated leading to an on-time liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:56 a.m. EDT.

I watched the launch live on NASA TV on my PC in full HD. It was a bittersweet experience. I remember as a boy listening to the first Shuttle launch live on the radio while my family sat in the car in a small French town in the middle of a long holiday. Now, I get live HD on my desktop but the Shuttle era is coming to an end.

I’m excited and optimistic about the private sector launch ventures that are underway. SpaceX, Blue Origin and the rest seem very promising. I am sure that, in the long run, commercial competition is more innovative than state monopoly but the challenge is figuring out how to make space pay.

Exploration and basic research are not (usually) business propositions. Ultimately, if we are to become a space-faring species, this contradiction must be resolved.

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2 Responses to Watching the Space Shuttle launch today

  1. rtd8450 May 16, 2011 at 15:42 #

    GHW, I share your concern about the impending end of the shuttle program, even as a long-time space geek from a "contributor" nation. I watched the launch on our national network via NASA TV and remembered seeing the first manned Mercury launch, and as many of the succeeding ones of that and subsequent progams that I could. I also fondly remember, as a guest of the Civil Air Patrol staring down the as-yet-unused hole in Pad 39B, and staring down from high above the transporter as Apollo 11 was in final assembly. We as a world cannot serve our inherent need to explore without a firm plan for "nest steps" in the as-yet unfulfilled quest for real space exploration. Cheers from north of the 49th!


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