Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching the final shuttle mission (STS-135) with curiosity and have been pondering whether it could prove to be some form of eerie metaphor for the zenith of (unsustainable) development.
Forty-two years after Richard Nixon authorised the development of the shuttle programme – just months after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin put the first human footprints on the moon – the American appetite for investing in space travel seems to be fading. The Economist reported that NASA’s budget in 2010 was just 0.5% of the federal budget compared to 4.4% in the heady days of the 1960’s Apollo era.
The final mission also seems to have been treated by NASA with a great deal of sentimentality even including a music video featuring the astronauts asking “What kind of world do you want?”
As the space baton is in some sense handed over by the US, and as the sunsets on the Space Shuttle programme, I’m left wondering whether we could be witnessing the passing of another peak – Peak Space Travel.
20th July 2011