As people on Twitter might know, I have a thing about the Space Shuttle. I was my son’s age when the Shuttle first launched itself into space. I gasped with incomprehension when the Challenger exploded. Many times I rushed outside at just the right time to see it fly over. On a few rare occasions, I was one of the first people in Europe to see it just after launch: its jettisoned fuel tank descending below it.
They needed to be retired. The fleet was long past its use-by date. They were using technology from the dawn of the computer age. They were dangerous and ridiculously expensive. The International Space Station has been completed. There are now other ways to send crews and supplies to it. There was no rational reason to extend its lifetime.
Nevertheless, I am sorry to see it go. I would have loved to see a launch first hand, to hear the roar as it rose above the atmosphere in a matter of minutes. No matter what comes next, the Space Shuttle program will be missed, if only because we are reminded, in a very tangible way, that 30 years have now passed us by.
Here is a great video which quickly recounts entire program, its highs and its lows, from 1981 to 2011. Let’s hope that the next few decades will inspire us even more.