The Future of Manned Spaceflight

I can remember as a child watching the U.S. manned space program starting with the Mercury program and progressing through Gemini, Apollo, and finally to the first manned landing on the moon. I remember being mesmerized by all of it and it becoming a lifelong obsession. When the U.S. decided to stop sending manned missions to the moon in 1972 I was devastated. It took until 1981 for another manned U.S. flight with the inauguration of the Space Shuttle. Once again I was captivated by every flight. One of my biggest regrets was never getting to actually watch a launch from Cape Canaveral. I had planned to but the one I bought tickets to go see was postponed repeatedly and I never saw it launch.

I do enjoy watching the Soyuz capsules taking astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS and while the ISS is an amazing technological feat, I want to see manned missions beyond low earth orbit. Now with the advent of companies like SpaceX and its Dragon capsule and Falcon rockets, I have high hopes of seeing manned missions to asteroids, maybe the moon, and if I live long enough, Mars. I am once again that child that sits riveted as I watch each launch of the Dragon capsule to the ISS. I can’t wait for the first manned version to fly. NASA has its Orion Capsule and associated Space Launch System, while Boeing has the CST-100. All of them are exciting and I am glad to see that NASA has deemed it wise to pursue more than one avenue for future manned flight.

I envy the young child today that is my age when I saw my first manned Mercury flight. He will grow up to see some amazing feats of exploration, both manned and remotely operated. Certainly to Mars, perhaps the Moon again, and perhaps Titan, Europa or some other exotic space. It is going to be an amazing adventure.


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