Politics

Discovery's Last Landing

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Ungainly and clumsy-looking to the end…

The space shuttle Discovery ended its career and the entire shuttle program* with a landing at the Kennedy Space center today.

The shuttle, a costly, inefficient remnant of the Von Braun vision, never lived up to its promises, and shuttle supporters are guilty of actual offenses against progress in space exploration, notably hostility to space tourism and a propaganda campaign that doomed the ahead-of-its-time Mir space station.

Nevertheless, for 30 years the shuttle was the primary way Americans got into low earth orbit, and its retarded offspring the International Space Station is the largest space object ever built by humans. And it was certainly a bigger success than Buran. In deference to these dubious but notable achievements, here are the final three minutes of America's shuttle program:

* I jumped the gun. Endeavour and Atlantis will continue the shuttle farewell tour later this year, or next.