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Our Place In Space After the Shuttle Program Wrapshttp://www.npr.org/2011/01/02/132583035/Our-Place-In-Space-After-The-Shuttle-Program-WrapsEnd of space shuttle program launches major challenges for NASAhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/end-of-space-shuttle-program-launches-major-challenges-for-nasa/2011/07/12/gIQAWICiAI_story.htmlNASA Chooses Space Shuttles' Retirement Homeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/science/space/13shuttle.htmlDismantling the Space Shuttle Programhttp://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/04/dismantling-the-space-shuttle-program/100045/Private Spaceflight Ready to Take Off in 2011http://www.space.com/10548-private-spaceflight-ready-2011.htmlTracking the Space Shuttle in Google Earthhttp://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2011/07/tracking_the_space_shuttle_in_googl.htmlThe Space Shuttle "Atlantis" blasted into space with a beautiful and flawless launch last Friday morning. The moment was bittersweet for many, as this is the last launch for NASA's Space Shuttle program. During this last mission the shuttle crew will be wrapping up construction of the International Space Station, delivering supplies, and performing a multitude of experiments while in space. The ending of the space shuttle program has led to many discussions, including those trying to evaluate the whether the benefits of the space program outweigh the costs, as each launch of the space shuttle costs about $1.5 billion. NASA's Space Shuttles won't be launching into orbit again, but this hardly signals and end to the space program and human spaceflight. It is impossible to say what exactly comes next, but there are already private alternatives brewing including Virgin Galactic and others. The end of an era can be painful, but it can also foster a new and exciting chapter as well. Perhaps Chris Ferguson, commander of the "Atlantis" mission, put it best, The shuttle's always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it commits to be bold and follow through "We're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. Let's light this fire one more time, and witness this great nation at its best."The first link will take users to a piece from Wired Science about the last space shuttle launch. The second link leads to an interesting piece from NPR about the US's place in space after the shuttle program ends. The third link leads to a roundtable conducted by the Washington Post with four expert contributors discussing the challenges facing NASA now that the shuttle program is ending. Moving along, the fourth link leads to an article from the New York Times discussing the retirement homes of the shuttles, and the fifth link leads to a great pictorial of the "Discovery" as it's inspected, disassembled, and prepared for its new life as a public exhibit. The sixth link will take visitors to a Space.com article discussing the next steps for private spaceflight. The last and final link will take users to the Google Earth blog, which discusses how to track the "Atlantis" shuttle's final voyage via Google Earth and NASA.
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