NASAs Still Thriving!

NASAs Still Thriving!

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  1. The death of the Shuttle program has left many feeling like NASA is going to shut down, but that is far from the truth.  The ability to launch spacecraft still exists even though the U.S. will no longer be able to send humans into space, but people should know that the manned space program is not closing entirely.  NASA and others have known for a very long time that the shuttles are old, outdated and in need of being replaced, yet the problem was addressed too late and so for now we won’t be able to send humans to space without the assistance of other countries.  In the meantime, however, NASA is far from shutting down and exciting scientific robotic missions are on the docket.

    NASA has sent missions to comets (Stardust), Mercury (Messenger), Saturn (Cassini-Huygens), and many other places in the solar system to study x-rays, radiation, Earth, the Moon, and the list goes on and on.  The quest for knowledge of our world, solar system and universe is strong, and too often people do not appreciate all that happens in the space program. 

    Mars is an especially interesting hot spot for scientists for several reasons.  It is relatively close to Earth, we know how to get there successfully, it has many similarities to Earth, and we have several Martian meteorites.   Successful Mars missions include the Pathfinder Rover, the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, the Phoenix lander, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express and of course the Viking landers of the 70’s.  Scientists collected photographs, atmospheric data, surface composition, mineral information, and so much more from all these missions.  The search for life and the quest to send people to Mars continues to motivate and drive exploration on Mars.

    The Mars Science Laboratory will launch this fall (November 2011) and is filled with instruments to help us understand more about the red planet.  MSL will travel to a place scientists think may have been a possible environment that could have been habitable to microbial life.  It will analyze rock and atmosphere samples using a variety of instruments to better understand the history of water and life (if any) on the planet. 

    NASA is not going anywhere, and the loss of the shuttle program is sad for everyone.  Exciting robotic missions are lined up for the near and far future, and people should not forget this.  America is not going anywhere as far as space travel is concerned, and young people have a great opportunity to again be on the forefront and better our space program with their creative ideas. 

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