Editorial: The Space Shuttle Era

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Last week, with the final landing of the space shuttle Atlantis, an era of American history came to an end. It is especially poignant for Alabamians because the rockets that launched the shuttles came from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

For 30 years, 5 different shuttles carrying 350 astronauts over 500 million miles, during 135 flights,  brought back advancements in everything from medicine to military to telecommunications to the Hubble telescope, with price tag of over 113 billion dollars. What will be our motivation for going back into space? Will we be able to afford it?

50 years ago our race to the moon was a political competition with the Soviet Union.  Ironically, we now cooperate with Russia on the space station, and, even more ironically, for the time being, we must depend on them to take us back there.  Who will we compete against now?

I suggest that none of the above matters.  We will go back into space because human beings are curious.  No other motivation is necessary. Costs and benefits are only a by-product.  When we do go back, I hope Alabama's connection, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, will get us there again.

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