The Discovery space shuttle was officially retired this Tuesday April 17th 2012. The Discovery will replace the Enterprise test shuttle the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Before making its last landing, Discovery flew above Washington, DC atop a specially modified 747.
The 30-year program ended in July with the final mission of space shuttle Atlantis. Although the US space shuttle program ended last year, this week’s ceremonial flight marks the true end. Going forward America will require assistance from Russia, China or private companies like SpaceX.
I’ve been fascinated by space exploration, astronomy and astrophysics my whole life. Although I understand a very small amount of these concepts, the sheer size and complexity of the Universe causes me to trip as I stare at the sky while walking my dog at night.
I hope to get my nieces interested in astronomy and what a better way to start than Lego’s?
I even have a poster of the shuttle cockpit upgrade from 2000 hanging in my home office:
CNN did a great job of covering this final flight with including this open story that allows users to upload their own photos of Discovery’s last flight as it passed over the nation’s capitol. There are some amazing pictures in that post and it makes me wish I had the chance to take some, but unfortunately I was working outside of DC on Tuesday.
There is likely reason to be concerned for the future of US space exploration. Although the shuttle program was incredibly expensive, we now rely on countries like China to get to and from the International Space Station. Our space program is now at the mercy of governments that don’t want to see the US succeed at anything. I will watch this very closely over the next few years to see if the US government made a wise decision.
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