Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis: "Inspirational," the Last of Its Kind (and what's next)

The last Space Shuttle launch happened this morning.

"Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time"
CNN (July 8, 2011)

"Editor's Note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. ..."

"...[Updated at 1:36 p.m.] Astronaut Julie Payette, a Canadian flight engineer who flew two shuttle missions told CNN: 'I feel good about it being a grand finale for an extraordinarily successful program.'

" 'This program has inspired so many people,' she said. 'It is very inspirational when we do things on the edge and this is one of the edges that's hard to reach.'..."

The Lemming feels pretty good about Atlantis reaching orbit, too. Space Shuttles have been making freight runs for decades now. These reusable spaceships got their job done - ferrying components, supplies, and crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

The Space Shuttle - an Infographic

"NASA's Space Shuttle – From Top to Bottom"
Karl Tate, (July 7, 2011)

A graphical representative [sic!] of NASA's space shuttle.
(from Karl Tate,, used w/o permission)
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

The original, at, is a little larger than this copy. The Lemming copied and resampled Karl Tate's infographic so that it would fit in this blog's format.

After Atlantis, What?

(from NASA, via, used w/o permission) (reduced and cropped)

For whatever reason, NASA doesn't have a replacement for the Shuttle fleet ready. Maybe Congress decided that there were more important things to spend the Lemming's taxes on.1

This is almost certainly not 'the end' for spaceflight. The ISS is still in orbit: and the American government is paying for the occasional ride up there, via Russian space services.

Meanwhile, outfits like Space-X and Blue Origin are developing Earth-to-low-orbit transportation systems. Vehicles like the Dragon and Goddard aren't quite ready for commercial service: but maybe that's just as well.

Construction hasn't been finished at some of the spaceports that will handle this century's outbound traffic.

And that's a topic for another post.

Related posts:More:
1 "They do nothing, we pay them to spend our money." "CONGRESS!!"

Something like that exchange was in a television ad for a game, years ago. The Lemming acknowledges that the United States Congress is probably doing a better job of leadership than one might expect from an equal number of lava lamps.

America's federal debt is so high, that Congress is talking about discussing solutions. Some members are actually coming up with ideas that might work. That's a start. Minnesota's government closed down most services this month - and that's another topic.

As for the NASA budget? It's a significant fraction of the total Federal budget, in the sense that it's a measurable non-zero number. As for how much America spends - willingly or not - the Lemming's been over that before:

Who spendsHow much
Federal Government$3,720,700,000,000 (2010)
NASA's Discovery program$425,000,000 (total)
Super Bowl advertisers$205,200,000 (2010)
(May 10, 2011)

More about budgets and common sense:

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