Today, the eyes of the world will be drawn to a momentous and history-making occasion…
Shortly before 4 p.m., all eyes will turn toward the Kennedy Space Center, 12 miles east across the wide expanse of the Indian River Lagoon. There, at Launch Pad 39A, if the weather allows, the shuttle Endeavour will thunder into the sky on a pedestal of flame, carrying six astronauts on a two-week mission to the International Space Station…
Some of the interest in the Endeavour mission is no doubt because of the drama involving its commander, Capt. Mark E. Kelly, whose wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, was gravely wounded in a shooting in January. She is here to watch the launching. And some of it is no doubt because of an anticipated visit by President Obama.
But the main draw is the fact that after this liftoff, and the launching of the Atlantis in two months, there will be no more space shuttle voyages. After three decades, the program has just about reached the end of the line.
“You’re not going to see another one — this is going to be it,” said Truman Scarborough, who was Titusville’s mayor in the 1980s and served as a Brevard County commissioner for 20 years.
Mr. Scarborough and others said that for the past three or four launchings, the crowds have been getting larger as the program nears its end. Officials were forecasting perhaps a million or more for the Atlantis launch, a crowd that would rival the glory days of the space program, when a mammoth Saturn V rocket propelled the Apollo 11 astronauts toward the moon.
(What, you thought I cared about the royal wedding?)
I’m not even a big fan of the space shuttle — as a publicity stunt, it’s mostly been a distraction and a waste of precious funds that could’ve gone into real space science — but this is a good article about the end of one more version of the American Dream. Back in the 1970s, “we” were young and naive enough to believe that boldly going where no man had gone before would open up new opportunities, not just ‘new frontiers’ to despoil once we’d crapped up the home planet beyond repair, but new chances for African-American women and (closeted) gay Asian men and half-breed aliens to move into brave new worlds that had formerly been the sole domain of crew-cut white guys.
Especially since, per the Washington Post, we’re shutting down SETI, too:
The SETI Institute has put its $50 million Allen Telescope Array (ATA) into hibernation, effectively shelving its search for extraterrestrial life.
In an e-mail sent this past Friday to ATA private donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson said there was a shortage of $5 million needed to fund the operation of the giant radio dishes that search the universe for signals from deep space. Starting this week, operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory north of San Francisco, where the ATA is located, will be suspended, and the 42 dishes will be put into hibernation.
Scientists and astronomers said the timing was disastrous, as the Kepler telescope had recently identified 1,235 possible new planets, many of which could be similar to Earth in size and habitability…
SETI has set up a page where people can donate to try to save the ATA here.
More possibilities than ever before that we’re not alone, and we’re letting the utilities be shut off for non-payment. Maybe we’re just embarrassed to have anyone see what a dump we’ve made of this lovely little blue marble.