Today shuttle Atlantis landed, bringing an end to NASA's shuttle program. The US was doing something no other nation in the world was doing, with the most complex machine ever built, yet used very dated technology, being designed in the 60's and 70's.
In the early 80's I had a F-16 with a NASA logo on the tail taxi onto the airport ramp in Greensboro, NC. A very nice gentleman by the name of Mike Smith climbed down the aircraft's ladder. He was very courteous and spent time with my step-daughter who happened to be visiting me at work. He gave her a mission patch and a photo of the rest of the crew slated to go to space with him. The shuttle he was to pilot was the ship Challenger.
63 seconds into the fight the crew was lost in a catastrophic explosion.
I will always feel very honored to have met Mike and shake his hand. He represented the very best America had to offer. Blow-by the O-rings of the solid rocket boosters occurred on every mission except for the very first (Blow-by was the cause of the "accident"). It was measured and documented and came to be something that no longer alarmed the NASA engineers. So sadly, this tragedy should and could have been prevented. The fact that the shuttle design allowed for no escape system during launch was a recipe for disaster as well. The crew cabin remained intact despite the explosion, and the crew survived the long fall to the ocean, with that impact causing their deaths. So, an escape system would have saved them. The next launch system for low earth orbit will include a escape system.....Thank God.
I support the US space program and the heroes that risk their life to expand man's knowledge of the universe. It's sad that 3200 ground support people are to be laid off. The US return to manned space flight will not come soon enough.
Thanks for your time,