Take a peak at STS-130 Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station 220 miles over our heads with Planet Earth as a backdrop. Wow. Both spacecraft are traveling at 17,500 miles per hour around Earth right now. Can you imagine?
Savor this view. Only a few more times in your life will you see a Space Shuttle docked to Space Station.
If you follow space at all, I’m sure you’re aware of the debate about the NASA budget and the decision to retire the Space Shuttle. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, blogs, newspapers. Fervent water coolers arguments, I’m sure.
Some cheer the end of the Shuttle and Constellation program, believing commercial providers can fill the gap.
Some mourn the loss of U.S. transportation capability, and believe NASA is lost.
Friends and colleagues outside NASA contact me to check in — see how I’m doing.
Let me assure you. I’m fine. NASA is fine.
We’re not going away. But yes, we’ll be going about our business differently. We received extra money in our budget over the next 5 years to advance technology. We’ll purchase our transportation and supply needs from available providers. (Those of you who know me have heard my predictions about future options. But those are water cooler conversations. Not blog talk.)
Here’s the deal:
We don’t debate budget decisions. We make cool things happen with what we’re given.
But to keep the Shuttle program going means money spent on upgrades and refurbished parts. To go beyond Low Earth Orbit, humanity needs a different ride. Think of it this way:
- How much money do you keep putting in your old car before you invest in a new one?
- If your current means of transportation won’t get you where you need to go, what do you do? (Build a new car? Pay someone to build a new car for you? Wait for someone to build a new car that you can bum a ride in?)
- What happens when you need transportation for short commutes, as well as long-distance? (Own two cars? Own one car, and buy a seat from another transport provider? Stay at home?)
Everyone will answer these question differently. Just understand none of the choices are easy, but that’s why we’re NASA.
We do hard things and make them look easy. We solve problems against all odds.
I’m excited for our future, though I’m emotional about the last few flights of the Shuttle. I’m really hoping an entrepreneur comes out of the woodwork with a space transport solution that requires no spaceship (hey, why not?), or a cute little George Jetson-mobile that I can zip around in (kinda’ like the X-38).
As we close out the Space Shuttle program (and for those who mourn Constellation), I leave you with this thought:
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss