Thursday, May 19, 2011
Space Station a "Historic Achievement"
An opinion column in Florida Today calls completion of the International Space Station "a historic achievement in the annals of space exploration."
Many said it could not be done, and there are those within NASA who have lost sleep knowing the extreme risks involved.
But the result has been among the greatest engineering feats ever, proving America’s technological prowess even as the future of U.S. human spaceflight remains mired in political acrimony and budget uncertainty.
A fact more impressive considering the station has survived a torturous, quarter-century path that includes several redesigns, Congress nearly killing it and delays in completion caused by the shuttle Columbia disaster.
The article notes that ISS is "now the centerpiece of U.S. manned operations, with funding through as least 2020 that provides the station a chance to prove critics wrong."
The Space Coast has a great deal at stake because the goal of creating a commercial launch industry at Cape Canaveral is keyed to private rockets flying cargo and crews to the station.
SpaceX and Boeing/United Launch Alliance want to ferry astronauts and other customers, including tourists, from the Cape to the station perhaps starting around 2015.
There also will be resupply flights with food, water and spare parts next year that, combined with the manned flights, could provide a robust launch rate and create jobs to help offset the deep post-shuttle workforce cuts.
Beyond that are hopes that ground facilities here could be a hub for preparing experiments headed to the outpost.