To mark the end of NASA's shuttle program, Alexis Madrigal revisits the space colonies imagined in the 1970s:
Conceptually, the colonies, while they required massive resources to build, would have been self-contained human communities without easy access to Earth's supply chains. They would have been frontier towns in space and as such would have had to prize self-reliance, closed-loop design, and alternative energy. Not only that, but the space colonies would have run satellite solar power stations (an idea that still kicks around now and again), providing them with a reason to be and an income — and obviating the need to develop the more high-fallutin' forms of nuclear power like breeder reactors.
Patrick Caldwell mourns the end of NASA's eminence:
The space race led to many discoveries that have now trickled down to affect everyday life. Computers, cell phones, GPS, and even lightweight home insulation all owe a debt to space research. No one at NASA in 1960 could have known they were working on the iPhone.
In truth, the shuttle’s retirement could actually make the U.S. space program stronger, by finally allowing the shuttle’s two users — NASA and the Pentagon — to go their separate ways in space, each adopting space vehicles best suited to their respective missions.
Colbert lampoons our new dependence on the Russians.
(Video via Nerdcore)