Freedom New Mexico
Massive rockets propelled the shuttle Atlantis into orbit Friday to a final rendezvous with the International Space Station, poignantly ending the storied 30-year space program.
Few advances epitomize American ingenuity more than NASA’s achievements, unquestionably establishing the United States as space exploration leader.
The shuttle specs alone speak to what not-so-long ago was unimaginable: Seven million pounds of thrust from the shuttle’s rocket booster carried the Atlantis into orbit at speeds of up to 19,000 miles per hour transporting people and materials to earth-orbiting rendezvous.
Hundreds of thousands looked on from highways, beaches and balconies along the “Space Coast” in Florida. Millions more watched the Kennedy Space Center launch on television or via Internet.
Before taking flight, Commander Christopher Ferguson observed, “The shuttle is always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through. We’re not ending the journey today … we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”
The romanticism endemic to the space program promises to continue. We are eagerly supportive of private enterprises continuing the space legacy by bringing entrepreneurial creativity to previously government-run programs.
The private promise rests with companies like SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., with its launch services that claim to “ultimately reduce the cost and increase the reliability of space access by a factor of ten,” and Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Colorado, which has a hybrid propulsion and small satellite design facility in Poway, Calif.
Could we see a resurgence of golden aero-space age with this new wave of private enterprise? We hope so.