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  • Wikipedia/NASA

Laura Pierce of the Tukwila Reporter:
Bonnie Dunbar knows these things. She has felt the rumble of massive, hydrogen-fueled engines in liftoff, sensed the press of gravity while slipping the bonds of earth. She has seen that earth, glowing like a jewel in the vastness of space.

For Dunbar, a veteran of five shuttle missions and former director of the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, the U.S. shuttle program isn’t just an entry in a history book. It is the nuts-and-bolts legacy of what makes us human: our desire to learn; to understand, essentially, why we are stardust, too. “...The universe has so much to teach us about our own planet,” Dunbar said, seated in the board room of the museum last month...

With NASA poised to conclude its shuttle program this year, Dunbar is working to convince the space organization to retire one of those three shuttles to the Museum of Flight.

For Dunbar, the Puget Sound region is rich with reasons for people to be interested in the shuttle.

“People don’t realize the link to the Northwest,” she said. “But when the shuttle was built, it had 100 different companies (involved in its manufacture.) Some of those companies are here.”

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That includes the Boeing Co., which built the 747 jetliner that carried one of the first shuttle orbiters on its back during early flight tests, and of which North American Rockwell - the company that built the first shuttle - is now a subsidiary.

If the shuttles end up coming to the Museum of Flight, this will be nothing more than the entombment of a space program that removed the US from the front of the real space race—the commercial launching of satellites. While the US spent its intellectual and financial resources on a space ship that looked and landed like an airplane, Russia, India, China, and Europe developed more practical (less showy) modes of space transportation. Indeed, if a non-spacefaring country wants to launch a satellite at an affordable price, it will not turn to the US (with its useless shuttles) but to Russia or India.
Experts also say that the launch is an "important milestone" in the commercialisation of India's 45-year-old space programme, which put an Italian satellite in orbit in April last year for a fee of $11m.

Correspondents say that India is eager to compete against the US, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in providing commercial satellite launch services, a market worth about $2.5bn a year.
India has successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit, officials at the Sriharikota space station in southern India say.

NASA's Space Shuttle failed because it attempted to humanize what is essentially inhuman: outer space.