45 years ago today, we landed on the moon for the first time. 3 years ago tomorrow, we landed our last shuttle mission. Today, NASA has no vehicle with which to transport astronauts or cargo—we’re relying on the Russian Soyuz to take US astronauts to the ISS and other means to transport cargo (including commercial transport).
NASA is currently working on Orion, which has a test flight later this year. But its first mission isn’t until 2020, provided no one screws around with its funding.
I know that it was a few years between Apollo’s end and the first Shuttle mission, but this is the first time in my lifetime that the US hasn’t been regularly flying its own craft into space and I can’t help but feel like we’re really losing ground in these years between Shuttle and Orion (provided that actually happens). I’m 100% in favor of commercial space exploration, but we’re not making ground on that in the way we should be, either.
It makes me sad that people don’t care about the space program anymore, that they take it for granted in a way. Humans have been living in space for years now and few people pay attention unless something goes wrong. We’re discovering new planets outside our solar system—ones that could support life—and yet few people find that as ground-breaking and newsworthy as they should.
My hope is that we can find a way to re-energize our space program and get people excited about it again, excited the way they were in the late ’60s, excited the way they were in the early ’80s.
Perhaps it’ll be the asteroid redirect mission in 2020, in which we plan to capture an asteroid in order to land astronauts on it for exploration. But I don’t want to wait that long.