So the hatches have finally closed, separating the shuttle from the International Space Station for the very last time. As I posted earlier last week, the shuttle has achieved a lot, and expensive as it may be it’s a shame that – not only is it now being decommissioned – but that there is no immediate replacement in sight.
In its desire to highlight the end of the shuttle missions NASA has choreographed a series of press-friendly calls to and from the station. while these are often made during shuttle missions, there has been somewhat more effort put into the STS 135 calls than might otherwise be demonstrated. Unfortunately, the earnest nature of some of these has not played out particularly well.
I’d be interested to hear from our transatlantic colleagues how these played out in the states; perhaps it is simply our gaelic cynicism and innate derision of organised back-patting that makes it all seem so wrong. To me, however, it still feels like a stereotypically bad am-dram performance finished off with a 30 minute curtain call that no-one wants to sit through.
The testament to the shuttle already exists in the vast steps forward in science and engineering which it has enabled. If you really want to publicise calls from the mission, then match the effort that has been injected in the rest of the project. Script it well, or not at all. Badly scripted teleconferencing seems only to make a bad joke of the project, which to my mind cheapens the whole endeavor.
Finally, one last cool bit of science from the shuttle for you. Track it live in Google Earth.