Endeavour to Launch on Friday
This Friday, the space shuttle Endeavour will launch into orbit for the last time. Its mission is to connect with the International Space Station to deliver scientific equipment before descending back to earth to become a museum exhibit.
NASA has finally decided to end its shuttle program, citing the high costs of space flight. Indeed, a single launch of a space shuttle can cost as much as $1 billion, due in large part to the considerable maintenance costs and the massive amounts of fuel required to get beyond the grip of earth’s gravity.
Although the shuttle program has had many successes, including the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope, the program has been marred by its unfortunate failures. The most notable of these failures was certainly the Challenger explosion back in 1986. And then in 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded on its descent from space.
The space program suffered from another type of tragedy earlier this year when a gunman entered a grocery store in Arizona and proceeded to shoot 19 people, including Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Representative Giffords is the wife of Mark Kelly, the astronaut who is the commander in charge of this week’s Endeavor mission.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, it was uncertain whether Ms. Giffords would survive the shooting. However, she has made a remarkable recovery and will be in attendance when her husband is launched into space this Friday. It should make for a happy ending to the thirty-year shuttle program.