In Pictures

One month later: Reflecting on STS-135 and the space program

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I captured the above video of Space Shuttle Atlantis escaping Earth’s grasp to rendezvous with the International Space Station on the 135th and final mission of the Space Shuttle program. I’m still in awe of where I was (3.1 miles away at the press site); I’m still in awe of the people I got to meet (some of which I will get to see again tonight at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum); and I am still saddened by the fact that nobody will get to see this machine fly again and that we have no clear path to getting Americans back in space from our soil. But that being said, NASA is not dead — far from it. The space program is still doing very important, relevant things.

For instance, NASA just launched a probe to Jupiter to learn more about it than ever before. Next month, two unmanned spacecraft are heading back to the Moon for research on the Moon’s gravitational field. The data we gather from unmanned missions is invaluable (and there are many, many things unmanned probes can do that manned flights couldn’t even consider, such as ramming into Jupiter as Juno is scheduled to do).

The #NASATweetup program, which helped me realize my life-long dream of seeing a Shuttle launch in person, is exceptional. If you have an interest in space and like to tweet about it, you are foolish not to follow @NASATweetup and sign up for the next one. I can only speak for myself, but I can safely say that going to mine changed my life.

In Pictures

End of the shuttle era

NASATweetup for landing

A Twitpic of the lucky 50 getting to watch Atlantis’s landing. Via Beth Beck.

An era in manned spaceflight — the only era I’ve known — is coming to an end early this morning as Atlantis touches down for the final time at Kennedy Space Center. I’m watching it at SpaceVidCast, which has a HD feed from NASA TV and a widely-respected chat community. It’s a shame to see the Shuttle go, but all good things, after all, must come to an end. I just feel very fortunate I was able to see this one launch; I’ll have more thoughts on this when I am more fully awake.

Atlantis rolling out to the launchpad

In a very positive sign of a return to what passes for normalcy in the space program, Atlantis arrived at pad 39B to get ready for a launch which NASA wants to be later this month. This mission will be crucial in resuming construction of the international space station, which will be the final frontier for the shuttle program as it’s scheduled for retirement in 2010.