In case you haven’t heard, this morning saw the final launch of America’s space shuttle program. And it’s entirely possible you haven’t heard. My guess is you’re at work right now and your boss probably doesn’t let you read the news. Hell, today’s my wedding anniversary and my wife wasn’t too happy that I was watching the launch instead of making mad, passionate love to her like the sex hungry lovers we once were before we got married and had kids.

The space shuttle is without a doubt the most recognizable vehicle in human creation. It is symbolic of this country’s greatness superseding, I believe, the grandeur of the moon landings. The shuttle was designed for routine orbital space flight and that was it. This country is so ahead of the rest of the planet that going into outer space was as common for us as driving to Burger King.

“The job of resupplying the space station, and providing the transport for crew members, would be left at first to spacecraft operated by Russia and NASA’s other international partners. Eventually, U.S. commercial spacecraft would help fill the gap. One of NASA’s commercial partners, California-based SpaceX, is planning a test cargo run to the space station later this year.

SpaceX and other companies are receiving tens of millions of dollars from NASA to build spaceships capable of carrying astronauts as well as cargo, but those companies say it will take at least three years with adequate funding to put those spacecraft into operation. None of those spaceships will match the shuttle’s 25-ton cargo-carrying capacity.

Retired astronaut Bob Crippen, who flew on the first shuttle mission back in 1981, said he was “proud of what the shuttle has done” over the past 30 years. “But I’m disappointed that we’re standing it down without the capability to put our astronauts in orbit ourselves,” he told msnbc.com.

The shuttle workforce has already been reduced in anticipation of the program’s end, and thousands are due to be laid off soon after the shuttle lands. Crippen said he was sad that so many people — including his daughter, a shuttle crew trainer — were losing their jobs. “But I’m proud that they’ve kept their focus,” he said, “and that they want to get off this mission and make it as much a success as the first one.” – MSNBC

Manned space travel is now going to be the domain of the private sector. Which means it’s pretty much going to suck. Granted, NASA is scrapping the shuttle to spend what little money it has left on sending astronauts deeper into space one day. But even then it’s going to be in conjunction with corporations. If you ask me (and it’s actually kind of rude that you didn’t) it just no longer feels like “we the people” are exploring the final frontier. The glory of space is now fertile ground for becoming a capitalist wasteland like every stretch of highway in America.

On one hand I can understand this because we are, after all, pretty fucking broke. Putting people in orbit and bringing them back without killing them costs an assload of money. Many would say that private companies can put more money and resources into space travel than the government can. And while that might be true, the sad fact is that companies are more interested in putting fucking billboards into orbit than they are advancing the cause of human understanding.

On the other hand the military is still blowing all kinds of money so they can set unmanned speedboats on fire. We’re still sinking a few billion a year into faith based initiatives so that your local church can brainwash your family without having to rely on bake sales. And of course with the bank bailout we gave untold billions to people who were already rich. All without batting a goddamn eyelash.

But hey, that’s cool. If the government can lower expectations because of economic reality then why can’t I? For example, instead of getting my wife an expensive gift and taking her out to a gourmet restaurant for dinner on this day I gave her a kiss, handed her my credit card and told her to “go nuts” at the liquor store. And if the entire American public could scream obscenities, lock itself in the bathroom and sob uncontrollably I bet we’d still have a space shuttle program right now.




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