Dymersion’s Freshman Independence Week continues with some input following the liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery. For those who don’t know, it is the second mission since the Columbia tragedy in 2003. It launched today at 2:37PM EDT and has a planned mission of 12 days, although one extra day may be added later this week, depending on certain conditions.
I think this launch is giving an optimistic view as to the future of the space program. A lot of people were unsure as to what was going to happen after Columbia. To me, it seems as if people were very hesitant to lift off another Shuttle quickly, if at all. On the other hand, I do believe that having a thorough inspection of the shuttles and reorganizing pre, during and post lift-off procedures was wise. NASA will not be turning a blind eye to anything they see as wrong on the shuttle, and I think that is the sign of good quality assurance. We know from the investigation after Columbia that these vehicles are very fragile, and something that seems small could snowball into a tragedy. So, it is good to see the a great deal of effort has been placed into keeping things safe for the astronauts.
I’m hoping that what has been learned since 2003 will be kept in mind in order to build a more reliable space vehicle for the next generation. That next generation is the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which is similar in appearance to the Apollo series. It will potentially allow a return to the moon, and even maybe a manned trip to Mars in a couple decades. I think it is nearly time for manned space exploration (beyond the Moon, that is) to become a reality, instead of merely science fiction, which this vehicle would allow. I don’t think the CEV is without faults, however. It takes us back to a free fall whenever we want to land somewhere (though, probably a more controlled free fall compared to the Apollo series), instead of being able to land like a plane. Maybe I watch too much Stargate, but I do hope we get to a time where we have a vehicle such as those shown on that program. It may take 100 years, but I hope we get there.
Still, this latest shuttle launch has given me hope. I am confident that the ISS will be completed on schedule, so NASA can focus their efforts elsewhere. The Shuttle line will be retired, and a new vehicle will come forth, maybe more than one if SpaceShipOne takes off. Space exploration is on the horizon, and subsequent launches in the next few years will only further confirm that goal. Good work, NASA.