After completing 200 orbits of the Earth for nearly thirteen days, Atlantis made its 33rd — and final — landing on July 21st, 2011, as STS-135 was the final mission of the Space Shuttle program. For thirty years, a generation of astronauts embarked on a wide range of dynamic missions utilizing the five shuttles that comprised the Space Transportation System (STS). As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, these robust shuttles provided the means for two of NASA’s finest achievements — launching the Hubble Space Telescope and constructing the International Space Station.
"The space shuttle changed the way we view the world, the way we view the universe," STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson said soon after landing. "America’s not going to stop exploring. Thanks for protecting us and bringing this program to a fitting end."
Since the completion of STS-135 three years ago, NASA still remains unable to send Americans to space, and must rely upon the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos for passage to the ISS. Hoping that an American-based commercial alternative would be available by 2015 under the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA had an original contract with Roscosmos at roughly $62.7 million per seat aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. However, because of the failure on Congress’ part to fully fund the CCP at optimum levels, that goal was made impossible. Still requiring a means to transport Americans to and from the ISS, on April 30th, 2013, NASA was forced to extend that contract until 2017.
This extension also comes at a price. The price of one Soyuz seat now requires NASA to pay Roscosmos approximately $8 million more, at $70.7 million/seat. Tell Congress that you support fully funding the Commercial Crew Program and that you want to end NASA’s dependence on expensive Soyuz trips:
"End of an Era: The Final Shuttle Launch" was the sixth episode of The Sagan Series. It can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/RxRJxD
1. STS-135 Landing Blog
2. NASA to Pay $70 Million a Seat to Fly Astronauts on Soyuz