The Space Shuttle was in my life from very early on, and served as an incredibly strong source of inspiration. One of my earliest computer memories comes from watching grainy, compressed video of the first 60 or so STS launches and landings off a CD-ROM. It’s a tired cliche that every kid at some point wants to grow up to become an astronaut, and I was no exception. As this particular image shows, I had (and still have, for the most part) a LEGO model of the Shuttle along with LEGO astronauts. However, I only have a couple of drawings of the Shuttle. I guess I preferred to have that tactile, physical object to play with, pretending to launch it into orbit for some world-saving mission.
Now, after 30 years of tremendous service to humanity, the NASA Space Shuttle program is coming to an end. Discovery recently landed after its final mission, and Atlantis will wrap things up for the program in June. I understand much more about the economics of the Shuttle program now than I did as a kid, and I understand why it cannot continue. Still, it pains me that this icon of technological achievement which so greatly inspired me as a kid will be no more. The private sector will ultimately grab the torch from NASA, but I fear there will be a dark age of little interesting space travel for a number of years after the Shuttle program ends. Just another sign of the times, I suppose.
PS: In other LEGO news, I recently constructed The Battlestar Galactica at the LEGO pile in the SXSWi conference hall. How’d I do?