Past, present and future combine in one brief frame as the Space Shuttle Endeavour passes over SpaceX headquarters in the iconic spacecraft’s final moments with air under its wings.
Whether it is a ship permanently moored to its quay as a floating museum, or a spacecraft or airplane forever captured in static display, there is something profoundly moving, and perhaps a more than a little sad about a vessel frozen in time, no longer fulfilling the function for which it was so clearly intended. With many flights left in their airframes, some would argue that the Shuttle’s were grounded before their time. As this photograph reminds us however; time moves on, and in the quest to move beyond low earth orbit, out into the solar system to actually explore space, we need new tools and new strategies.
On the final flight of the Shuttle program, the crew of Atlantis left an American flag pinned to a bulkhead of the International Space Station. The flag is to remain there until it is returned to Earth by the first crew launched on a new rocket from American soil. As one of two primary winners in the most recent round of the Commercial Crew development program, and with a test flight scheduled more than a year earlier than its closest rival, it seems quite possible that the crew which returns the flag will launch on a system built in this very building.