Endeavour's launch today

Space. The final frontier. That’s true today more than ever, as the space shuttle Endeavour soars into the heavens for the final time (after multiple expensive delays)! Now that Endeavour has launched, after a final flight from the Space Shuttle Atlantis next month, manned space flight in the United States will be grounded for quite some time, with NASA focusing its limited budget on unmanned missions. Partially as a result of the 2003 explosion of Space Shuttle Columbia, NASA moved to quickly end the Space Shuttle program. They planned to develop a successor, but Obama nixed that plan in favor of giving almost $270 million to private companies to build new spacecraft. Obama would like to see humans on Mars by 2030, but the government has no concrete plan to make this happen.

Most Americans will take some solace in the fact that the commander of this final launch is Mike Kelly, husband to Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman attacked by a gunman earlier this year. Columbians have another reason to feel proud—the pilot on this final spaceflight is none other than Columbia alum Greg Johnson, MS ’85, whom the Blue and White interviewed last year. We also have the advantage of living in New York and partying on the Intrepid, which will soon be home to Enterprise. And of course, Columbia contains the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and we can keep debating what they should be doing—without worrying about what’s actually possible in (or just above) the real world.

It may be a long time before we boldly go where no one has gone before, or even just where no one has gone since 1972. But one thing’s for sure: whenever the US restarts its manned spaceflight program, Columbia will play an integral role. Live long and prosper.

Update: A Bwogger happened to be on the scene and set us this home video of the launch. Cool stuff:

Photo via NASA