Students respond to end of shuttle program

On Friday, July 8, the Space Shuttle Atlantis made the final ascent from space not only for itself, but also for NASA’s 30-year-old shuttle program as it concluded STS-135, the Shuttle program’s final mission.

Following a successful landing at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA will be terminating the employment of some 8,000 Shuttle-related workers, many of whom are Tech alumni.

With no replacement human-operated program in sight for NASA and the concept of manned flight on hiatus, this cancellation has and will affect many current alumni while also affecting an even greater majority of future alums with hopes of pursing careers in the aerospace industry at the same time.

“My entire life I’ve imagined working first-hand on the shuttle program as an astronaut. While I knew the end of the Shuttle would be inevitable, I never guessed NASA would not have some sort of manned space program waiting to replace it,” said Taylor Green, a third-year ME major.

While many are saddened by the Shuttle’s departure, some see its cancellation as a greater economic improvement to areas outside of the publicly funded sector.

“I fully support NASA  in all its endeavours, but I am glad to see that the large amount of money being used by the space program is going to be used to help out in different sectors of the nation, especially considering the current state of the economy,” said Taylor Davis, a fourth-year CM major.

“I think that the end of government-led exploration will definitely impact the job market for certain fields of engineering as a whole, but at the same time, this will also open the door for private companies to expand into the sector with the end result helping to create more jobs,” said Kellian Morrisey, a first-year MGT major.

Stuart Donnan, Tech alumnus, EE ‘09 and a current NASA employee, describes the end more as a beginning.

“When the Bush administration canceled the Shuttle program, it was in order to free up resources for a new wave of space exploration. The U.S. space program is in the middle of a great change at the moment, and it is an exciting time…but [it] can be confusing to people who just see the Space Shuttle being retired with no concrete system to take its place,” Donnan said.

Donnan stated that if he were currently a Tech student, he would be excited for the new possibilities in the still-vast area of space exploration.

“The space program hasn’t been canceled. It has been reborn,” Donnan said. “The challenges before us will require the engineering talent of Tech to succeed. If I were student today I would be very excited about the prospect of being involved with the next generation of space exploration. If you are passionate about human spaceflight, I would encourage you to write your congressmen. NASA’s vision is guided by Congress, and by making your opinion known to those who shape space policy you can actually make a difference.”


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