NASA prepares to retire space shuttle program, Elon community reacts

By Kellye Coleman
The Discovery space shuttle is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday (photo by nasa.gov).

The Discovery space shuttle is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday (photo by nasa.gov).

The space shuttle Discovery, which has been in space since Feb. 24, is expected to return from its last mission on Wednesday, signifying the retirement of the 30-year space shuttle program.

As NASA‘s $19 billion budget for 2011 will require it to set aside plans for manned missions in the near future and transition to commercially built vehicles, members of the Elon community respond with some opposition.

“Even if we didn’t make any discoveries in space, the fact that we go up there has given us many innovations on Earth,” said Helen Walton, member of the Elon mathematics department.

NASA has spent $9 billion planning manned missions, but budget for 2011 has caused any plans to come to a standstill, a move that some believe will negatively affect the U.S.

“It has taken over 50 years to build and develop America’s ascension to its rightful place as the dominant player in human spaceflight,” said Congressman Pete Olson. “That dominance is apparently no longer desired.”

Elon junior Casey Kasko agrees, believing space exploration is important for future generations as well.

Junior Casey Kasko discusses why space exploration is important for the U.S.:

Aramark employee Pat McCaskill believes changes in budget should happen across the board.

“[Space exploration] is worthwile,” McCaskill said. “Maybe they should cut back on all programs; then everyone won’t get hurt so badly.”

Elon sophomore Nick Butterly thinks the U.S. should spend its money elsewhere for the time being.

“I don’t think sending austronauts into space is worthwhile,” Butterly said. “It’s incredibly expensive sending people into space, and I don’t think we can afford that right now.”

Sophomore John Cart believes there are alternatives.

“I think space exploration is worthwhile, because it advances technology,” Cart said. “I think instead of just sending people they should send robots and probes.”

In the coming year, $6 billion of the budget will be used to support commercially built space vehicles.

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