When the last two space shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis made its final orbit and came back to earth on June 1, 2011 and July 21, 2011 respectively, one can’t help in awe but ask now, what was it like long ago when the Space Shuttle was still flying? The final touch down drew in thousands of cheering and crying crowd of over 2000 bringing an end to NASA’s 30-year shuttle journey.
It was said that the Space Shuttle brought a lot of benefits to the planet by opening its eyes to what is out there, it showed the most vivid geography of the earth’s map, helped doctors and scientists understand and discover age defying treatments, created space shuttle-derived technology that have saved lives, from baby formula to designing cool garments on a hot weather. (July 18, 2011, Associated Press)
But while countless space enthusiasts are still mesmerized with the end of the space shuttle era, the spacecraft Juno is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL, on August 5. The solar-powered spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core.
The long-term future for American space exploration is just as hazy, a huge concern for many at NASA and all those losing their jobs because of the shuttle’s end. Asteroids and Mars are the destinations of choice, yet NASA has yet to settle on a rocket design to get astronauts there.
So how do these new frontier of science affect course curriculum planning? Is there going to be life after the space shuttle orbits? “Children who dream of being astronauts today may not fly on the space shuttle but, one day, they may walk on Mars,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr., a former shuttle commander, said in a statement.
The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program on Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis, provides teachers with links to resources that can make this historic moment a teachable moment. The resources include appropriate essays with essential questions and objectives that are relevant to: e.g., where the Shuttle orbits the Earth, the physics of a shuttle launch, the cause of microgravity (weightlessness), and the history, legacy, and future of human spaceflight.
Legacies endure though the experiences and knowledge passed from one generation to the next. Through these storied vehicles, it provided a testament to America’s technological prowess, and propelled dreams of generations heavenward. After these shuttles will be relegated to museum display, students who continuously be reminded about its history, will celebrate the past for generations to come. It is why we have Mozart, da Vinci, Einstein, and Shakespeare. It is why we have art and music and science and technology.