On Monday, May 16, NASA is planning to send Space Shuttle Endeavour up into orbit on its last voyage ever. Endeavour, the fleet's youngest shuttle, comes from a family of six: two of which were lost during missions, two retired and the last, Atlantis, is scheduled for a final launch in June. The Space Shuttle program is one filled with the highest of highs and lowest possible lows. Saturday, May 14, also happens to be the 38th anniversary of the launch of Skylab, America's first space station, which deorbited in 1979 and disintegrated in Earth's atmosphere. In short, it's a pretty complex time for America's space program, with each day full of reminders of the heights the country soared to, and the nervous transfer of manned space exploration from a national effort to the private sector. For the last 30 years, NASA's Space Shuttle has served U.S. interests in orbit. You can see the fleet's greatest hits in the gallery below. Each image comes from the flight mentioned, complete with the mission's badge, which were unique to each flight.
50 years ago today, Alan Shepard, America's first astronaut, and the then-newly-formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (or NASA to you and me) achieved an important milestone for the U.S. space program: America's first manned spaceflight. The effort is often talked about in terms of the people involved, or the spacecraft that made it possible. Alan Shepard, for instance, is rightfully regarded as a national hero, and the humble Redstone rocket that carried him into sub-orbit is an iconic reminder of that first flight. There's a crucial component that also played a massive role, however, a young technology at the time that rarely gets its due considering how important it was: the computer.
In just the past week, Congress has introduced a bill directing NASA to put a manned base on the moon by 2022, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said that he'll be sending humans to Mars in a little as 10 years. But can it happen, and do we even want it to?
It looks like big changes are coming NASA's way as the Obama administration outlines a new direction for the space agency with its 2010 budget proposal. Interestingly, the White House isn't calling for a dwindling operating budget year after year;...