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Jul. 07, 2011

What Will Be The Last Words From Space?

by Ira Flatow

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The final shuttle launch has been getting so much last minute attention one would think that the 130+ that came before were widely covered, too. Not so. Except for the first few and the two tragic disasters, the media has been loosing interest for years. And I guess so has the space industry.
 
The shuttle is like a camel: a horse designed by committee. It was the first manned space vehicle – U.S or Soviet – with no practical means of escape, i.e. no rocket propelled escape system. Because it was the first manned vehicle not sitting on top of the fuel tanks, it was subject to foam from those tanks falling on to its fragile tiles.
 
The shuttle is/was a vehicle with no mission, headed mostly to a place the public really cared little about: the International Space Station. This “space truck” could haul large satellites into space, something the military wanted for secret stuff. But the Pentagon stopped using it, too.
 
Its greatest accomplishment is perhaps the Hubble Space Telescope and the fantastic photos it sent back.
We were told way back when that the chance for a disaster was something like 1 in 100,000. New studies show the real chance is more like 1 in 100. Reality: 2 in 130.
 
Kids growing up now know little about the 70s moon missions, except perhaps for historic words from the lunar soil, “one small step for man….” They’ll probably know even less about the shuttle.
 
Maybe the last words spoken from space in the shuttle may be worth remembering. What do you think?
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

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