Contributed By:

Alex Johnson

NASA's Final Shuttle Launch

OPB | July 8, 2011 9:06 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 10:19 p.m.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off for the last time on Friday, marking the end of the space shuttle program. It will also mark the end, or at least a temporary postponement, of American-manned space flight.

In its lifetime, the space shuttle served as a so-called “pickup truck for space” because of its ability to carry heavy objects (like parts of the International Space Station). The shuttle has no immediate successor, which means that American astronauts will rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to get to the International Space Station.

According to some, the end of the space shuttle program represents our diminishing desire to attempt and fund space exploration. Others, including our guest Jim Todd, believe that space exploration will continue even if it doesn’t involve Americans to the degree that it has over the last 50 years. Others ask about the necessity of manned space flight: If robots can do our space missions more cheaply and more safely, why should we send people?

We’ll cover these and other topics with a NASA astronaut and the manager of OMSI’s Planetarium.

What does space exploration mean to you? Do you think it’s worth your taxes? What do you hope the future of space exploration looks like?

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