Happy Friday Freaks
From CNN: Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off
So, this morning the space shuttle Atlantis embarked on its 12-day mission to the International Space Station, marking the official end of NASA's space shuttle program. Being the supporter than I am of exploration and the search for knowledge, a part of me is deeply saddened that the space shuttle program is getting the axe after its 30 year tenure of throwing apes into the cosmos, but the greater part of me believes that this is an excellent opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the shuttle program, and pave the way for starting on a clean slate in the future.
Now, granted, rocket science is just a weekend hobby of mine, but I have always had a few problems with the space shuttle program. For those of you not familiar with the design, check out this page here and scroll down to the diagram at the bottom of the page. Gives you a pretty basic idea of what these rockets look like before they take off. Essentially they are comprised of three main pieces, the reusable Orbital Vehicle, the two reusable rocket boosters, and the expendable external tank. The space shuttle program, and the NASA programs before it, have results in so much "space debris", or man-made waste floating around in Earth's orbit, that the unfaltering continuance of these methods would have eventually resulted in effectively creating an impassable shield of trash around the planet. Remember, even something as small as a screw or bolt whipping around the planet's orbit can cause some serious damage at those velocities. While NASA has done a lot of work to mitigate the damage cause by these micrometeorites, it is still a serious problem.
Of course, while NASA is no longer continuing with the space shuttle program, Russia and China are still at the grinding wheel, so this does not mean the end to mankind in space. And if we have learned nothing else from the success of the space program, it is that that success, while impressive, still falls woefully short of truly being able to explore the vast reaches of our galaxy. The top velocity of the space shuttle while in orbit is 17,500 miles per hour. At this continued rate of travel, it would take approximately 23 years to reach just the limits of our own solar system. Of course, you can start getting into the possibility of attaching solar sails to increase the speed of your vehicle, but that just complicates things beyond my comprehension. Like I said, this is just a passive hobby of mine.
So maybe with NASA free to look into alternate methods of propulsion, and more efficient ways to travel in space, breaching beyond the boundaries of our own solar system could one day become more of an approachable task. I mean, as cool as going to the moon is, even now in 2011 we are a far sight from realizing Kubrick's fantasy for the year 2001.
This is for those of you out there that are fans of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of Oz mashup. The song Echoes laid out over the final part of 2001 by Stanley Kubrick. It's not perfect, but hell, what is in this crazy world of ours?
Enjoy the weekend.