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Atlantis coming in to land at Kennedy Space Center at the break of dawn, 5.57am EDT, 21 July 2011

It was such an emotional moment on 21 July 2011 at 5.57pm our local time in the evening and morning for Florida, for Space science-loving people especially for those who have worked in the shuttle program for 30 years to see Atlantis, the last of the three shuttles (the other two are Discovery and Endeavour), coming back from its last mission into outer-space.

Among the most important program’s spinoffs is the building of the International Space Station (ISS) which has facilitated and promoted a united international space research collaboration since the end of the COLD WAR. The shuttle astronauts have also, over the years, helped to set up and tune-up the Hubble telescope giving us spectacular images of the universe. Indeed the shuttle is an ICON of American science and technology.

The International Space Station (ISS) that the shuttle program helps build and equip

STS 135-Atlantis Patch

Atlantis blasting off on July 8 2011

It is interesting and inspiring to listen to what Commander Ferguson of Atlantis said about their space journey, that it would only be completed once they manage to make the young continue the quest for space exploration for the future of humanity, well said Commander, I am very impressed with this kind of spirits of improving the next generation of knowing more about our external world. He went on to say “Although we got to take the ride, we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us.” Indeed, I for one, am a great admirer of the space shuttle and have read voraciously about the program, its technicalities and the people who made it alive. I have the deepest regards and respects for all the astronauts, dead and alive. They represent the best in terms of knowledge,skill, bravery and tenacity.

Atlantis crew-The final four, Commader Ferguson on the right

How I wish we Malaysians would be given the opportunity in the studies of outer-space science and contribute to the world. To get people to be interested,they first have got to be inspired. They need to learn how to think scientifically and not to ascribe everything as fated. Our people are more intrigued and interested with the afterlife rather than the present and future.So it does appear that we don’t need Vision 2020 but Vision minus 2000 instead.

Seriously, not a prominent mention in our papers regarding this momentous event of great human endeavour. How then do we expect to inspire our young? It would only make it to our front page had something dreadful happened to it I suppose. This reminds me of the vivid, spectacular and attention-grabbing demise of shuttles Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003) with the loss of 14 lives. May God bless their souls. The fourteen small stars in the commemorative patch represent the 14 dead astronauts and the five bigger stars in a line represent the five space shuttles.

NASA Shuttle Program Commemorative Patch

With the end of the shuttle program, A NASA official said that in order for America to improve further, to go deeper into space and beyond, they need to change and ceasing the shuttle program is a form of change for them to concentrate on these more ambitious projects of reaching other planets for example, Mars.

Mars has water?

Good luck America.. what a great space nation!

Footnote: My equally shuttle-crazy cousin has announced that if she were to be reincarnated, she would like to be an Astronaut and walk on Mars! And my reincarnation would be as her Space Rocket Commander 😀

AN UPDATE on 28 July 2011

Moscow this month proclaimed the beginning of “the era of the Soyuz” after the US shuttle’s last flight left the Russian system as the sole means for delivering astronauts to the ISS (International Space Station).

The life cycle of ISS is about 22 years from the year of launching (1998). The Space Station will be used till approximately 2020 following which Russia and its partners have planned to plunge it into the ocean like they did with MIR, its predecessor which was sank in the Pacific Ocean in 2001 after 15 years of service.

Source: AFP

Hope that answers the queries of a couple of my blog readers.

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