If all goes according to plan, Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch from Cape Canaveral on July 8th and perform the swan song for the shuttle program.
Much has been said about this flight marking the end of an era, but NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says it’s actually the signal of greater exploration.
“When I hear people say or listen to the media reports that the final shuttle flight marks the end of U.S. human space flight, I have to tell you, you all must be living on another planet. We are not ending human space flight. We are recommiting ourselves to it and taking necessary and difficult steps today to ensure America’s preeminence in human space exploration for years to come.”
Bolden says he estimates commercial companies will develop a low-earth orbiter to transport astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2015.
In the mean time, NASA will work on deep space exploration with a focus on going back to the moon, as well as to an asteroid and Mars.
“Solar power and water processing are two examples of how we are learning to better operate space craft independent of resources supplied from Earth. We need to break the ties to our home planet and learn to live and work in space without direct dependence on Earth. The ISS can be a platform to us to learn these skills.”
Bolden, who is himself a former astronaut, says the shuttle program is the most successful space program in history, but in order for America to continue to dominate space exploration, NASA must do things differently.
“Some of the people I respect most in the world are my fellow astronauts. Some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle. And I’m not about to let human space flight go away on my watch. I’m not going to let it flounder because we pursued a path that we could not sustain.”
Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch next Friday at 10:26 am Houston time. Laurie Johnson, KUHF News.