The end of the Shuttle Space program is not only something that I care about as an American citizen; it is something that has touched me personally. I have family and friends who live on the space Coast of Florida.   Although not all of the people I know there actually work for NASA, everyone on the space coast will be
affected by the shutdown of the Space Shuttle Program. For every worker that
has been laid off by NASA, there will be two or three other people who will
have less work, or fewer customers.  It is not just about the people who get laid
off, is it?

I know the current space shuttle program is out of date. The shuttle design is from the late 70’s, and I have no idea how they kept those old things going, with the rapid rate at which technology is changing today. What I and others want to understand is why shut down the shuttle program completely?  To try and wrap my head around it,  I did what my Mom used to tell me when I was a child, do some research, look it up.   After reading several different articles over the past few days, I now think I have a better understanding of why it is being shut down and what will replace the current program.

Private contractors are  already working on basic shuttle rides to and from the closer planets. There is Mr. Branson who owns Virgin, and several other  privatized space
exploration firms. NASA is has allocated monies to help those private companies
to the tune of $268 million. Here is a quote:

NASA announced this Monday that four companies would be awarded funds to help develop an alternative to buying rides from Russia.  NASA gave $92.3
million to Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp was given $80 million, Space Exploration
Technology was given $75 million, and Blue Origin was given $22 million. NASA’s
Charles Bolden’s said that they want, “American ingenuity to get to low-Earth
orbit, so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

Credit: NASA

Space Exploration Technology, also known as SpaceX, successfully launched the Falcon 9 Rocket in June of 2010.  Also in the works is the Falcon Heavy, which will allow for the lowest cost per pound rocket launch to date.  Long time NASA subcontractor, Boeing was the lead contractor for the International Space Station and also worked on the
space shuttle.   In the past year, they announced plans for possible commercial space shuttles.  A newer entry into the private space exploration field is The Sierra Nevada Corp. They are working on Satellites and on the Dream Chaser Orbital Space Vehicle
which will transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station.  And I just read they are in negotiations with NASA to take over some of the existing space exploration facilities on the Space Coast. Blue Origin which was founded by
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is working on a new type of space shuttle . So the facts
are, while NASA withdraws from the field of near space exploration and shuttle
missions, there is no shortage of  private companies ready to fill the void.

With the current economic decline choices had to be made.  NASA, like the rest of
us, is watching their budget, they had to pick and choose which projects to invest in. Now that I understand there are private companies picking up the space exploration mission, I don’t feel quite so bad about our future in space exploration. I also feel like there will not only be places for the laid off  NASA people to work, there will be new opportunities for others .

I do think it is exciting that NASA  will be focused on the development of vehicles for  deep space exploration.  Missions to Mars and other planets are already in the planning stages.

I hope it’s like the old saying goes “When one door closes, another one opens.”

Tell me what you think, but please keep it civil and on topic.

Thanks ,