Shuttle to Launch but It’s China Taking Off

by Val Germann

This afternoon NASA’s space shuttle will, weather permitting, be launched on a very important mission to the International Space Station. This writer hopes that all goes well with the flight and that he gets to see the combined ISS/Shuttle glide through his midwestern skies on July 4th. But NASA is going to be out of the shuttle business in just a few years no matter what happens today, and then be without a manned spacecraft for another several years beyond that. Make no mistake, China will be the nation to fill this soon-to-be-yawning space gap.

Yes, it’s true, as a recent article on the SPACEDAILY website illustrates:

China has allowed reporters inside its space launch control room at Aerospace City near Beijing as part of an effort to join in the world’s space projects. The rare visit by foreign reporters occurred as China seeks access to the International Space Station . . .

The future is not hard to see: China has money and will soon have space capability; the U.S. and NASA will soon have neither. There is no doubt about this because by 2011 every dollar NASA will get, nearly, will be going into a prospective moon flight, not into the ISS. Will the Europeans simply give up and allow the station to be de-orbited? This writer does not think so. No, they will take China’s offer.

And the Red Menace will make that offer, no doubt, powered by billions of U.S. dollars funneled east by American consumers. The irony will be choice to those few who will care.

Read the entire article here.

Addendum: On Independence Day most of the central U.S. can see the station+shuttle combo, which will appear (weather permitting) in the sky around 10:00 pm, perhaps during your local fireworks celebration! Navigate to the website below and follow the directions there to find out if your location will be favored in this way. The two are usually easy naked-eye objects when visible.

Check here for Shuttle/ISS passes for your location.


About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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