Last shuttle flight in January 2011

NASA have announced that the last shuttle flight will be in December 2010, although there are reports that it will slip to January 2011.  Then what?  The shuttle replacement (which was, effectively, a glorified Apollo capsule) has been binned and there are no plans to provide an alternative.

I think it’s a great shame that the Americans are, effectively, giving up on manned space flight.  A couple of shuttle disasters and everyone wrings their hands and says “Oh dear.  It’s too dangerous!”  If the sailors of the 16th-18th century had said the same, America would still be in the hands of the ‘Indians’.  How many of the early exploratory vessels never returned?  But then, they didn’t have global media to make us all depressed by pushing bad news all the time…

I feel that it’s a symptom that America is beginning the same slide into obscurity  that happened to the UK and other imperial powers in the last century.  The causes are much the same: the realisation that, despite your ‘best efforts’, people out there don’t like you.  This produces introspection and feelings of inadequacy which turn to anger and the desire to isolate yourself and concentrate on your own problems.  It could be more than unfortunate if the US abdicates its responsibilities (in the way that Europe did) in the face of burgeoning new world powers, many of whom do not place the same importance on freedom and human rights.

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