On Sunday at 11:07 a.m. EDT, Atlantis will dock with the International Space Station to deliver more than four tons of supplies. The flight of Atlantis is the final space shuttle mission as NASA ends the 30-year program to pursue a new path in space exploration.
Thousands of space shuttle workers throughout the country have been laid off or will lose their jobs not long after Atlantis returns to Earth. At the peak of the Apollo program, NASA was consuming almost 4 percent of the federal budget, which in terms of the 2011 budget is about $150 billion. Today the manned space program will die for want of $3 billion a year — 1/300th of last year’s stimulus package with its endless make-work projects that will leave not a trace on the national consciousness.
In the meantime, NASA will pay Russia to fly its astronauts to the station at a cost of more than $50 million per person.