Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #10

A little over nine years ago a remarkable event took place. On a list of technological achievements it would rank among the top, perhaps superseded only by the lunar landings. On October 30, 2000, human beings went to space - and stayed there. The spacecraft that made this possible was the International Space Station, our Spacecraft of the Week.

Let me take you back to another time a little over a hundred years ago to give you perspective. Two brothers experimenting produced a series of gliders to engineer the technology to achieve flight. The would run down a sand hill and let the glider lift them up in the air, only to settle back to earth a few seconds later. Their prowess and skills led them to more advanced designs, finally incorporating an engine. Now they could launch from the level field. A first attempt was made, and an 12 second flight was the result - significant for its historicity but not much more than their unassisted glides. A second and third were made only slightly increasing duration and length of flight. But imagine how Orville felt as he watched Wilbur take of on the fourth and ultimately final flight: He's up. 12 seconds - still going. 20 seconds - he's looking smooth! 30 seconds - he's not coming down!

That just under a minute fourth flight of a controllable powered flying machine proved that we as a people could call the sky our home. Every plane eventually lands, but many individuals call the sky their place of work. Nine years ago, that mindset shifted further, beyond the atmosphere. The International Space Station allows people to go to space to work, to call home. They go up, and stay up.

Or think about his way: Second grade classrooms across the country are filled with students who have not been alive a single day that a person has not called space home. They and their younger classmates, brothers and sisters represent the true space age generation. The sky is no longer the limit. Space awaits them.

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