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Atlantis Liftoff Still On Schedule

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By Doug Powers  •  May 11, 2009 12:02 PM

Here’s a thread for my fellow space geeks. The shuttle Atlantis is still on schedule for a 2 p.m. ET liftoff, beginning its mission to repair the Hubble telescope. You can watch the launch prep and the launch itself here.

There’s so much debris up there now that a stand-by shuttle is also on the launch pad in the event a rescue mission is necessary:

Still, some risks remain. NASA has estimated there’s a 1-in-221 chance the shuttle could be struck by orbiting space debris from past missions. Thousands of speeding objects litter the heavens, some as large as several feet in diameter, and the Hubble’s orbit is more crowded with space junk than that of the international space station, which orbits at a lower altitude, NASA said.

While the Atlantis’s shields would likely deflect a small piece of debris, a larger object could cripple the spacecraft, NASA said. Space shuttle Endeavour is on standby in the unlikely event that NASA will need to rescue the Atlantis crew members during their 11-day mission.

In related news, last week, NASA approved the partial privatization of the space program.

It’s a start. As Pope John Paul II said, “Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellspring of initiative and creativity.”

Walking down the beach with your significant other, pointing up to the night sky and saying, “There’s a beautiful ‘Red Bull/Applebees moon’ out this evening” will be a small price to pay.

Besides, if the space program were more open to the private sector, some financial burden could be lifted from taxpayers. I’d be willing to bet you could put a heck of a down payment on an entire mission simply by agreeing to have an astronaut step onto the surface of Mars, remark “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Pepsi” and then pull out a cell phone, and say, “Can you hear me now?” Mission paid for. Cha-ching!

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