Neil deGrasse Tyson Reflects on the Space Shuttle Program, 1981-2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA's Kennedy Space Center The Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (NASA/Jim Grossmann)

The space shuttle Atlantis returned this morning, marking the end of an era. The space shuttle program began with the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981. The program advanced space exploration into the twenty-first century. Contrary to the Apollo missions, which sparked fierce competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the space shuttle program existed mostly in an era of collaboration and cooperation between nations.

The Hubble Telescope delivered vibrant photos of the universe into our homes, and the International Space Station brought astronauts from across the world to work in orbit. The space shuttle program also suffered its share of tragedies, most memorably the explosion of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, and the Columbia disintegrating on February 1, 2003.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and host of Star Talk Radio, reflects on 30 years of the shuttle program.

Comments [2]


Never made sense to throw away the Saturn 5 which could send huge payloads anywhere in the solar system with an inefficient "airplane" that launched and landed over 100 tons of wings, spars, fuel tanks, tires, landing gear and seven tourists only to leave behind a tiny satellite as scientific payload.

And to do this stunt 140+ times is a sure indication NASA has become a bureaucratic waste of space.

Face it, the Space Shuttle was an affirmative action project that proved time and again that seven smiley faced human beings of every race, culture and race could eat, sleep, exercise and play together in space while holding hands and answering questions from grade schoolers.

We should all wish the private sector well.

Jun. 23 2012 12:30 PM

While it is sad that the NASA shuttle era is over, I am excited to see what happens to the private sector of space exploration. I think the same competition that fueled our desires to go into space will be recreated by the private companies determined to go into space. I think that the new NASA will continue to make some remarkable discoveries.
I am glad the Atlantis made it back safely. Those astronauts made some great progress on the ISS and are a huge part of history. I wish them the best of luck with their future endeavors.

Share your thoughts on the new changes to NASA with Swakker Shuttle for Iphone!

Jul. 21 2011 10:53 AM

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