After days of media hype, NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell into the Pacific Ocean without — it would seem — having harmed so much as the proverbial fly. The satellite had orbited Earth for 20 years without receiving much public attention. Launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991, UARS had quietly gone about its work until its inevitable, inexorable descent hurtled the six-ton satellite into the public spotlight at the very hour of its death.
In 1958, Congress created NASA, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. The rationale for America's first venture into outer space was national security: to insure that the country could defend itself against any threat from space. The Soviets appeared to have a head start through Sputnik and similar short space flights. The United States quickly realized the invaluable military benefits of satellites and developed "smart" weapons using geosynchronous communication systems to deliver ordnance precisely. Thus, all the first astronauts were military officers.
With the landing last week of America’s last space shuttle, the nation stands at a critical point in the history of space exploration. For some, the last flight of Atlantis — a mission officially designated as STS-135, was “bittersweet,” as one writer termed it. The landing of Atlantis may presage a difficult era in the “Space Age,” or it may herald the beginning of the end of the government’s virtual monopoly on mankind’s exploration of the heavens.
As the space shuttle Atlantis orbits the earth on its final flight, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is attempting to chart a new course for a federal agency that has often given the impression of being “lost in space.”
As the last flight of NASA’s space shuttle began with a photogenic launch this morning, the future of manned space flight is far from certain. From the first shuttle mission — designated STS-1 — in April 1981, when astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen flew the Columbia, through today’s launch of Atlantis for STS-135, the shuttle program has been the focus of much of the praise and criticism in public analysis of America’s space program. Now, as Atlantis begins its twelve-day mission, the debate about the future of human space flight centers on the role of public and private involvement in such endeavors.
As the Space Shuttle Endeavour began its final mission on May 16, the future of NASA’s human space program remains uncertain. The space shuttle program is steadily approaching its end, but the readiness of the space agency to move forward in a post-shuttle era remains to be seen.
Private industry is making progress toward lowering the cost of space flight, and NASA would like to come along for the ride.
Among the earliest actions of the Obama administration was the appointment of the “Augustine Committee,” which was given the responsibility of carrying out a review of NASA’s manned space program. The result of the committee deliberations was a NASA with its budget intact, but without a mission or mandate to go anywhere. The previous administration’s plans for a return to the Moon and eventual missions to Mars were abandoned — few presidential administrations are interested in implementing the showpiece programs of their predecessors.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant milestones in the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it comes at a time when Russia once again hopes to sprint head of any rival space program.
An American company is planning to build the largest rockets since the days of NASA’s Apollo program, and promises to deliver payloads to orbit for a tenth the cost of the space shuttles of the U.S.’s troubled space agency. SpaceX has already successfully launch a smaller vehicle called the Falcon 9 on several occasions, but now the company has announced plans for a bold, new step in the development of private space flight.
Americans have become accustomed to the presence of Global Positioning System (or GPS) technology embedded in everything from the GPS on their dash to their cell phones and iPads. In fact, GPS is nearly taken for granted for everything from locating a restaurant to navigating a fishing boat through the fog. But now it appears that GPS, which was developed primarily for its military applications, is rather overtly returning to its "national security" roots, as NASA plans to turn the security of the GPS system over to the Department of Homeland Security.
Twelve-year old boy genius Jacob Barnett has already acquired boasting rights. He is already in college and possesses an IQ that is higher than Albert Einstein’s. He is currently working on an expanded version of Einstein’s theory of relativity.
As if any of that's not enough, Jacob has announced his intent to disprove the Big Bang theory.