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America's mighty space fleet is sent into retirement

As a self-described space nut, it's with great sadness that I look upon these images of the remaining members of the Space Shuttle fleet being picked apart and readied for their new homes in museums. The Atlantic has posted 35 breathtaking pictures of Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour.
Discovery will find a new home in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum while Endeavour will make its way to the California Space Center. Atlantis will be sent to the Kennedy Space Center.
The first orbital mission of the Space Shuttle fleet kicked off with Columbia on April 12, 1981. Space Shuttle Atlantis made its final flight into space on July 8, 2011 and landed safely on July 21, 2011. In total, there were 135 missions and two tragic accidents (first with Challenger in 1986 resulting in the loss of its crew, and later with the Columbia and its crew in 2003).
For now, you can hop on over to The Atlantic to see the best that America had to offer in the modern era of space travel:
Shuttle Endeavour (L) and Shutte Discovery (R) [Source: The Atlantic]
For those that still wish to reach beyond Earth's orbit, we can still look forward to NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) which will eventually take astronauts to Mars.

Source: The Atlantic

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RE: NASA & SpaceX
By stromgald30 on 3/30/2012 2:02:20 AM , Rating: 2
SpaceX is cheaper yes, but more reliable remains to be seen. SpaceX is still in the learning stages and has had only 3 real successful launches out of 7 attempts (they claim 4, but in reality if it doesn't reach a stable orbit, it's not a success). The shuttles had a 98% reliability.

Eventually, they should be able to pave the way to higher reliability, but it won't be an easy path considering the many tragedies with early air travel, which was a much easier challenge.

NASA was never meant to compete like a commercial company. And that's the sad thing about how NASA is seen today. Most don't realize that NASA isn't about putting people in space, it's charter is to push the boundaries of mankind's reach and knowledge, not operate a space taxi like the shuttle.

Musk and other wealthy space nuts will never be able to put people on Mars. It's just too great of a challenge for a company that has to worry (at least somewhat) about the bottom line. For the challenges that necessitate very long-term R&D investment, commercial enterprises have never competed with universities and government research organizations.

The Shuttle should've been turned over to the private sector in the 80s after NASA had paved the way. Much like how communication satellites were turned over to the private sector in the '69. This was called for by many NASA leaders ( but Congress botched the job since they wanted to keep all the space centers in their various districts/states running.

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