Okay, so tonight's caption has nothing to do with the photo. I mean, when it comes to the photo, quod erat demonstrandum.
asked me the other day in the chat what I thought about the looming end of the Space Shuttle program. I've got mixed feelings about it:
1. The acceptable catastrophic failure rate---in other words, losing the vehicle---was 1% in the proposal. That's *small* in spaceflight. America has lost relatively few people in spaceflight accidents; the Russians have had more accidents, but they covered them up better in the Soviet days. America's openness is both a strength and a weakness. [Some will argue that the openness of America's early spaceflight opportunities, including Explorer I and Mercury I, led to the US following the USSR's lead. That's a discussion for another time, I guess.]
2. In terms of sheer business, it's been good for me. In case you don't know what I do for a living, I manage the manufacture of unpressurized cargo carriers that carry hardware to the International Space Station. You likely heard that a lot of the coverage about the STS-129 launch on Monday said, "Carrying spare parts to the space station." Who built those carriers [note: not the spares themselves, but the cradles that carried them to orbit and will protect them in orbit]? My company did, for the most part. I had a *lot* of hardware on yesterday's Shuttle, probably north of $5M, much of it hardware that I managed.
But at the same time, work has been so busy the last four years that I just about suffered a mental breakdown and, in fact, took three weeks off from work to fight depression and clear my head this summer. And I'm still in therapy. So, there's that.
3. The Shuttle program does need to eventually end: it's far more expensive than originally designed, and in this era of strained budgets, we only get out of low earth orbit if we stop flying to it. I think it's a mistake to end it before Orion/Ares is online, but then I also want NASA to have three times the budget they currently get. [For what we paid in money and blood to fight in Iraq, we could have put a man on Mars in the same period of time. I'd rather do that than fight a war, regardless of the justification.]
4. I will miss the Shuttle. I grew up with it. Challenger's explosion in 1986 is really why I got into the space program---it was important enough for people to die for, and I wanted to help make sure that they didn't die.