After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

‘Discovery’ Helped Bring the Universe Home

Posted on May 17, 2012
Filed Under Business, Government, Technology | Leave a Comment

Now it’s a museum piece. After 39 space missions and 5,830 Earth orbits, the Space Shuttle Discovery is completing its first month on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, the air and space extension of the Smithsonian Institution. At least the shuttle’s hanger has an august name – Discovery hasn’t been consigned to an oversized garage.

Gary Cameron/Reuters

John Glenn, who in 1962 was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth and returned to space on Discovery in 1998, was on hand to welcome the shuttle to the Udvar-Hazy center, which is just outside Washington.

All those lift-offs – of Discovery and the earlier shuttles – from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida thrilled, or in a couple of instances saddened, us deeply. It almost seems a curtailment of our national purpose that the launches won’t be continuing, at least under NASA’s sponsorship.

Yet much has been learned from the initial decades of space flight. And one of our keenest intuitions is that future space travel can most affordably be handled by private enterprises. NASA now seems more like a bureaucracy casting about for a mission than a space transportation company. It’s funding, suggests my Encore colleague, Dennis Owen, “should be limited to hard-core science, such as radio/optical telescopes, robotic planetary surveillance and other pie-in-the-sky missions.”

Dennis suggests that Insights readers visit to see what non-government organizations, universities, etc. can do with relative “chump change”.

What must continue is that we get, by whatever means, including the space telescopes, a continuing sense of the beauty and extent of the universe, and our role therein, as responsible occupants of our launch-pad planet Earth. – Doug Bedell


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