Space Shuttle flies for the very last time


NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with space shuttle Endeavour atop approaches the flight line area of Edwards Air Force Base from which it had taken off minutes before to begin its Tour of California. The tour featured low-level flyovers of a host of landmarks in a number of cities around the state before landing in Los Angeles, where it will become the central focus of the California Science Center’s space exhibit.
September 21, 2012
NASA / Jim Ross

It’s truly over.

The Space Shuttle and I grew up together. I remember first learning about it around 1971 in Estes Model Rocket News. In 1976, I had a science project for the state science fair with the title of Our Future in Space. The Space Shuttle figured prominently in that future and in my project. I did another project about the space shuttle in 1977 and in 1980 I designed a space station that was based on expended External Tanks and was to be serviced by the Space Shuttle. That project did quite well in the state science fair at the high school level, and I am sure that its success had much to do with me being accepted at MIT. Columbia flew on STS-1 during my senior year in high school. At MIT during those years, everybody in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics was Space Shuttle-crazy, and it was a frequent source of problems to solve for our assignments. I had friends who worked on the Shuttle program as engineers and flight controllers, and a few who flew as astronauts on it.

When I was collecting information for my science project back in 1976, I wrote each of the NASA centers and asked them for information. A few weeks later, thick packets arrived. One contained NASA SP-407 Space Shuttle, which I retain to this day. It was a well-illustrated and detailed description of the Space Shuttle, which would not fly for five more years but whose design was well-defined by then. According to the publication, the Space Shuttle program objective was to establish a national space transportation capability that will:

  • Substantially reduce the cost of space operations.
  • Provide a capability designed to support a wide range of scientific applications, defense, commercial, and international uses.

Nearly forty years later, we can state with confidence that the Space Shuttle program was a failure, in that it did not meet its objective. But what a magnificent failure it was. I had the opportunity to see the launch of STS-120 and numerous landings at Edwards AFB, and it is things like that that inspire us. Human space flight is one of the signature achievements of the United States, and I do not believe that it is coincidental that the end of the Space Shuttle program without a ready replacement coincides with a general senses that the United States is in decline.

Successful or not, the Space Shuttle was the basis of American human spaceflight for a generation, and for those of us from that generation, it will always be remembered.


ISS Expedition 32 crew lands in the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft

ISS Expedition 32 crew lands in the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft

The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergie Revin in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, September 17, 2012. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews.
Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

New entrant in the general aviation market: Novaer Craft

Novaer Craft of Brazil is developing a new four-seat, single engine general aviation aircraft. Based on a report of its appearance and performance, it seems like a director competitor to the Cirrus Design SR22.

The world’s most sophisticated variable geometry wing

An amazing video of an amazing aerodynamic design.

First weapons delivery by a F-35 Lightning II

Video of F-35B BF-03 delivers a GBU-32 (not a BGU-31 as incorrectly stated in the caption) during flight testing at Pax River.

US Coat Guard saves the occupants of a ditched Cessna

Semper paratus!

Photo of the week


An F-15E Strike Eagle receives fuel from a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission Sept. 10, 2012, over the Atlantic Ocean. The refueling was part of a training mission for the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath and 100th ARW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

Gulfstream gets Type Certification for the G650

Having just obtained certification for the G280, Gulfstream has added another business jet to its inventory, the ultra-long range G650. Given the expense and complexity of developing and certifying an aircraft, the ability of Gulfstream to simultaneously do that for two different models is most impressive.

The Gulfstream G650 program suffered a tragic flight test accident during its development, with the loss of four test crewmembers, including this blogger’s former squadron commander, Lt Col Kent R. Crenshaw, USAF retired.

Gulfstream G280 gets its Type Certification

The Gulfstream G280 has received its Type Certification from the FAA and the CAAI. The G280, a medium-large business jet, is a joint effort between Gulfstream and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Voyager 1

Voyager 1 was launched 35 years ago today. After completing its primary planetary exploration mission, Voyager 1 and its sister ship, Voyager 2, continued their epic trip. Today Voyager 1 is over 18 billion kilometers from Earth, listening for the end of the solar system and the beginnings of interstellar space.