"Majorities of U.S. voters disagree with the decision to end space shuttle missions and fear other nations might surpass the U.S. in space exploration. Also, future space exploration through both NASA and private companies is seen as preferable to either going it alone. The IBOPE Zogby interactive poll conducted from July 22-25 also shows 74% say the space shuttle was a worthwhile use of government resources. The final space shuttle mission ended with the safe landing of the Atlantis last week."
Shuttle News: July 2011 Archives
DOE, Interior Eye Employees Jettisoned by Space Program, New York Times
"The Energy Department and the Department of the Interior are among dozens of federal agencies looking to hire some of the engineers and scientists from NASA's closing space program. NASA and the Office of Personnel Management held a job fair yesterday in Cape Canaveral, Fla., less than a week after the space shuttle Atlantis landed. All told, about 5,500 contract employees at Florida's Kennedy Space Center have lost their jobs in recent months, and NASA contractors are expected to lay off another 2,000 over the next year. For an area nicknamed the "Space Coast," the end of the space program is a blow. But federal agencies are swooping in to take advantage of a pool of employees they say have skills that are usually hard to find."
"Unfortunately, with the final landing of the Shuttle Atlantis and no indication of plans for future missions, this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation's legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space."
Perry launches on Obama for cutting NASA, Dallas News
"... Perry went on to say that, "this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation's legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space." Actually, it was the Bush Administration that decided to end shuttle missions, and the Obama Administration extended the life of the shuttle program by adding two additional flights."
"The Shuttle's chief purpose over the next several years will be to help finish assembly of the International Space Station. In 2010, the Space Shuttle -- after nearly 30 years of duty -- will be retired from service."
"Mankind acknowledges the role of American space ships in exploring the cosmos," it added. But Roskosmos also used the occasion to tout the virtues of the Soyuz (Union) spacecraft, which unlike the shuttle lands on Earth vertically with the aid of parachutes after leaving orbit. It said that there was a simple answer to why the Soyuz was still flying after the shuttles retired -- "reliability and not to mention cost efficiency."
Keith's note: How nice of our friends at Roskosmos to rub our noses in their monopoly today. Oh well, we created this situation through both deliberate intent and bumbling over the past decade. Well played, comrades. Enjoy it while it lasts. By overcharging in the obscene, escalating fashion that you have done during our periods of need, you are sowing the seeds of your own demise by spurring lower cost alternatives. All too soon, American spacecraft will do everything Soyuz does - and more - and will do so much better - and cheaper.
Keith's update: Yea, in case you had not noticed, I am really pi**ed off by this whole situation and how the Russians (whose space program we overtly subsidized since the 1990s) are dancing in response to our bad decisions and crappy predicament. Oh well, it will be fun to watch Russia wiggle as China flies the real Soyuz upgrades - and then as SpaceX et al beat Russia and China on both price and performance.
"In addition, under the Commercial Crew Program, ULA is proud to be the launch vehicle of choice for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and Blue Origin's Space Vehicle, and compete to support Boeing's CST-100 program. Working together with NASA, these established companies and entrepreneurs plan to usher in a bold new era of human spaceflight; not only transporting NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, but opening spaceflight to non-government passengers for the first time."
"NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle Program has been more than just space exploration to Florida families, it's part of their history, it's their livelihoods, and it's been a source of inspiration for the tens of thousands of people who have supported its operations and have made their homes in our great state."
"The Obama Administration continues to lead federal agencies and programs astray, this time forcing NASA away from its original purpose of space exploration, and ignoring its groundbreaking past and enormous future potential. It is time to restore NASA to its core purpose of manned space exploration, and to define our vision for 21st Century space exploration, not in terms of what we cannot do, but instead in terms of what we will do."
"This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background."
"At 5:57:54 a.m EDT the orbiter Atlantis came to a wheels stop at the Kennedy Space Center runway 15 marking the end of the Space Shuttle era."
"At today's final landing of the space shuttle, we had the rare opportunity to witness history. We turned the page on a remarkable era and began the next chapter in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration."
"The brave astronauts of STS-135 are emblematic of the shuttle program -- skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds who propelled America to continued leadership in space with the shuttle's many successes," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era, but today, we recommit ourselves to continuing human spaceflight and taking the necessary- and difficult - steps to ensure America's leadership in human spaceflight for years to come."
Planetary Society Statement On the End of the Space Shuttle Program, Planetary Society
"Mission accomplished! It's been thirty great years for the Space Shuttle program. With this venerable space vehicle retired, it's on to the next adventure.
"The Space Shuttle has taken more than 10,400 tons into orbit, a fantastic legacy, as most of that equipment is still up there helping astronauts do their jobs. But now it's time to move up and on -- outward. We can make new discoveries peering beyond new horizons."
Former NASA chief Griffin now wants to save the shuttle, Houston Chronicle
"In his e-mail, Griffin writes:
"At this point I'm in agreement with Dr. Kraft ... In a world of limited budgets, I was willing to retire the shuttle as the price of getting a follow-on system that could allow us to establish a manned lunar base. Not that my opinion matters, but I see no sense in retiring the shuttle in favor of nothing. That is beyond foolish."
It's a pretty stunning reversal from the man who, just a few years ago, couldn't get rid of the shuttle soon enough."
Keith's note: Mike Griffin and his self-described "band of brothers" often referred to the Space Shuttle as an "albatross" and was indeed in a big hurry for it to go away. He seemed to have little worry that the "gap" that he so despised grew rather healthily under his tenure. Now that his self-described "Apollo on Steroids" architecture collapsed under its own flawed engineering and program execution, he's suddenly a space shuttle advocate.
That's the problem with steroids, Mike: they affect both your memory and your judgement.
Transcript of President Obama's Call to the International Space Station (with video)
"President Obama: Well, this mission marks the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program and also ushers in an exciting new era, to push the frontiers of space exploration and human spaceflight. You guys will continue to operate, or crew members like you will continue to operate the ISS in coming years, and seek to use it to advance scientific research and technology development. I've tasked NASA with an ambitious new mission to develop the systems and space technologies that are going to be necessary to conduct exploration beyond Earth, and ultimately sending humans to Mars, which is obviously no small feat, but I know we're going to be up to the task."
Keith's note: On Friday President Obama will call the crews of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station from the Oval Office starting at 12:29 pm EDT.
Keith's update: During his call to the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis and International Space Station crews today, President Obama mentioned that a special American Flag had been carried to orbit on board Atlantis - a flag that had been carried aboard Columbia during STS-1. According to STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson, this flag will be left on board the ISS until the next crew of Americans is launched from American soil aboard a commercial spacecraft. The President joked that this is going to become sort of a "capture the flag" game for the commercial spaceflight industry. Shortly thereafter SpaceX tweeted "SpaceX commencing flag capturing sequence..."
And thus the game begins.
"The 10 crew members aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will hold a news conference at 8:24 a.m. CDT on Friday, July 15. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the 40-minute news conference."
"If there is one thing I'd say [to policymakers] it is that we need to focus our efforts. I'd appeal to Congress to focus on the long term. They need to look at the horizon - look out 10 years and see where they want the nation to be. We need a coherent space policy that will take us 10 to 15 years out - a decadal plan - and then make it a law so that we have to follow it so that Congress and future administrations are obliged to follow the policy that we, as a nation, have set forth."
According to firstname.lastname@example.org: "The LCS SE&I group celebrated the launch of STS-135 with homemade Italian bread and cold cuts!! Checkout this work of art!!"
"The crew's All American menu begins with crackers, brie cheese and sausage."
Keith's note: Brie cheese? Wikipedia says: "Brie is a soft cow cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated (roughly corresponding to the modern dpartement of Seine-et-Marne)." Gee, that doesn't sound "all-American" to me. Duh - why not serve "American cheese"? Wikipedia says: "American cheese is used in American cuisine, for example on cheeseburgers, in grilled cheese sandwiches, and in macaroni and cheese".
Yes, it is a slow news day.
This photo shows Space Shuttle Atlantis punching a hole in the sky on its way to orbit. The image was taken on 8 July 2011 from a high altitude balloon flown by students and volunteers at Quest For Stars. Larger image here. Additional photos from STS-135 and earlier shuttle missions can be found here.
"After a heart-stopping pause at T-31 seconds, Space Shuttle Atlantis left Earth and leapt above the sky this morning. This is the last time a space shuttle will ever do this - and everyone in attendance at the launch site knew it.
Up until a short time before launch gloomy weather forecasts had left a sense of doubt among all who gathered here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Half an hour or so before the scheduled launch time the weather suddenly started to improve - and with it, the crowd's expectations.
I am not going to write about all the geeky stuff. Everyone else is doing that."
With a 70% chance of a weather violation the Space Shuttle Atlantis beat the odds and thrilled close to a million gathered people who waited hours to see the final launch of a Space Shuttle. Main engine cut-off and external tank separation have just occurred.
Update: Watch the final launch again on the next page.
End of shuttle program doesn't mean end of American leadership in spaceflight, Dana Rohrabacher, The Hill
"Now, as we celebrate the accomplishments of the space shuttle, we look forward to blazing that new trail, one which will finally bring us closer to achieving the real dreams and true promise of the space shuttles: inexpensive, reliable, safe human spaceflight. This transformation won't take place overnight. NASA, Congress and others still have the power to get in the way and create a self-fulfilling prophecy by preventing it from happening, at least in this country. We will only lose America's leadership in human spaceflight if we prevent the free market from pursuing multiple, independent launchers and vehicles."
"As things stand right now weather is the only thing standing in the way of an otherwise flawless countdown for the last Space Shuttle mission. No technical issues are being tracked except for some air conditioner problems in a building in Houston. In other words, this has been "textbook" thus far from the hardware point of view."
7 July update: As torrential showers descend upon Kennedy Space Center, concerns linger as to whether conditions tomorrow at this time will permit a launch to occur. As has been the case in the past bad weather can suddenly yield a favorable window. At this time NASA seems to be intent upon going ahead with the countdown in case this opportunity arises. If weather forces a scrub odds are that there will be 48 hour delay with an attempt on Sunday. A GPS launch currently has the range reserved between 11-5 July and NASA is looking at ways to possibly get 11 July from them.
Atlantis' final launch inspires bittersweet celebration, Orlando Sentinel
"Bittersweet is the exact right word," said Titusville Mayor Jim Tulley, who retired from a career with shuttle contractors Lockheed and United Space Alliance. "For the people being laid off, it's a little more bitter than sweet. We're going to look back at this program with just an incredible sense of pride." But first, it's time to party, with celebrations starting Wednesday evening in downtown Titusville, and running through the day and all night Thursday, right up to Friday's 11:26 a.m. launch."
"Soon-to-be-jobless space workers and those who've already lost their jobs are now competing for work in a labour market where more than one in 10 is unemployed. And the Space Coast is still reeling from the housing crisis, making it tougher for workers to sell their homes and move elsewhere for a job. 'Everything is taking a turn for the worst, it seems like,' said Kevin Smith, local president of the union for space centre firefighters, paramedics and workers at emergency landing sites. 'What little is out there, everybody is competing for.'
"The loss of space technology jobs means the loss of very high paid jobs" Fishkind told WMFE, "so it has larger than normal consequences for the area's economy." He said the loss of so many high wage jobs is having a larger multiplier or "ripple" effect across the entire economic landscape. Still, he thinks Brevard County is better prepared now than it was when the Apollo program shut down in the early 1970s.
Behind the scenes of launch preparations: Massive job losses, Houston Chronicle
"Today NASA is down to 5,500 contractor employees and 1,200 civil servants working on the shuttle, said program manager John Shannon. That's a total of 6,700 people who process the shuttle and support it during flight. If the shuttle launches July 8, as expected, another big layoff will come on July 22. At that time NASA will lay off about 3,200 contractors, Shannon said."
"The space shuttle was sold to America as cheap, safe and reliable. It was none of those. It cost $196 billion over 40 years, ended the lives of 14 astronauts and managed to make less than half the flights promised. Yet despite all that, there were some big achievements that weren't promised: major scientific advances, stunning photos of the cosmos, a high-flying vehicle of diplomacy that helped bring Cold War enemies closer, and something to brag about."
"Our community is going to lose the gift of hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms that we didn't really have to work very hard to fill," said Thompson. With the last launch, the town's identity will slip a little further into the past. "For me, it's probably going to be a lot of joy and a lot of sorrow all at the same time," said Socks, who knows when the tourists depart this time, all that will be left is a suddenly, shockingly empty sky.
As shuttle era ends, questions loom for shrinking astronaut corps, Washington Post
"The agency's vaunted astronaut corps, trained to withstand high acceleration, dangerous spacewalks, isolation and countless technical hiccups, now confronts a challenge with no handy checklist: the unknown."
"As the clock ticks down to this week's final space shuttle launch, there is a mounting sense of uncertainty about future U.S. dominance in space."
NASA's space shuttle program ends this month: Does anybody care?, San Jose Mercury News
"For the past 30 years, NASA's space shuttles have served as the primary vehicles for our collective out-of-this-world imagination. Though only venturing into low-Earth orbit -- a mere 250 miles to the International Space Station, not much farther than a drive from the Bay Area to Pismo Beach -- shuttles kept a solid American foot in the doorway to more. But somewhere along the way "astronaut" became just another career. And shuttle expeditions became so routine, the general public often didn't know when a craft was in orbit or not."
Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor, Washington Post
"NASA's critics say the human spaceflight program is in a shambles. They see arm-waving and paperwork rather than a carefully defined mission going forward. NASA has lots of plans, but it has no new rocket ready to launch, no specific destination selected, and no means in the near term to get American astronauts into space other than by buying a seat on one of Russia's aging Soyuz spacecraft."
Images: STS-135 Crew Arrives in Florida, Ken Kremer, SpaceRef
The Last Space Shuttle Crew jeted into the Kennedy Space Center on Independence Day, 2011. From Left: Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
"To maintain this vital life safety margin for long-term ISS operations we are requesting the following: ... To avoid any gap in providing independent repair spacewalks as a safety contingency for the space station, Congress, NASA and the ISS partners should evaluate the option of postponing the launch of STS - 135 until more external fuel tanks and other parts can be built to support additional shuttle flights in 2012."
Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor, Washington Post
"Garver and other administration officials are getting heat from some of the most famous astronauts on the planet, not to mention members of Congress and aerospace industry executives. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and someone never known to be a rabble-rouser, recently co-wrote with fellow Apollo astronauts Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan an op-ed in USA Today declaring that the space policy of the Obama administration is in "substantial disarray." The astronauts protested the decision to kill the Constellation program, the George W. Bush-era plan for a new lunar mission with new rockets and spacecraft."
"Last week, former astronaut John Glenn expressed his unhappiness with the end of the shuttle program. Glenn called it "ridiculous" and says he has objected to the cancellation since President George W. Bush made the announcement back in 2004. "I'm sorry to see things being cut back or diminished in any way, because I think the country needs research and innovation now more than ever before," Glenn said. "Owning and operating lower-orbit transportation is not in the best interest of the nation," Bolden said of the shuttle program."
Keith's note: The timing of this letter and editorial effort by these folks is odd to say the least. The authors wait until the last possible moment and then expect the White House, NASA, and Congress to suddenly do a 180 degree course change in policy - with all of the associated and unbudgeted costs - 6 to 7 years after that policy was announced and agreed to by all parties.
Atlantis: The Grand Finale Photo Special at Launch Pad 39A Part 2, Ken Kremer, SpaceRef
"It was both relentlessly breathtaking and surreal to find oneself at a historic crossroads - looking skywards from directly beneath the wings of the very last shuttle orbiter that will soon be orbiting Earth some two hundred miles overhead. NASA's Space Shuttle's are the most complex and magnificent machine built by humans, constructed with over two and a half million moving parts."