Flying bricks shouldn’t invoke glamorous images, but NASA’s space shuttle does just that. Its bright white paint glowing over a heavy matt black base conveys the sense of majesty and strength that well belongs to this craft. Pat Duggins’ book Final Countdown â€“ NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program builds on this impression, even if it contains an undertone similar to an eulogy.
With NASA setting a hard deadline finalizing the flights of the space shuttle, we know the end is near. After tens of years and wild swings of fortune, this dream of ready space transportation is being laid to rest. Many reasons accompany this decision, from political shenanigans to technical tom foolery, and many other options in between. Perhaps, though, it’s just the lack of public interest that’s doomed this endeavour.
In Duggins’ book, many of the reasons for the end of the shuttle program get mentioned. As well, it covers major milestones for the program. But, it’s not a concise history nor a program review. Rather, Duggins book takes the reader on a human perspective. In it, the social issues come more to the fore than those of a technical nature. As such, he places no expectations on the reader being enamoured by the technology. But, Duggins apparently has great fondness for the space industry, admiration for the practitioners and lofty dreams of humanity’s capabilities. Thus, the book reflects Duggins appreciation of the space shuttle program, from its early inception of being an inexpensive replacement for Apollo to its present being the fundamental tool for space station construction. Though he acknowledges the shuttle’s shortcomings, he also lauds it successes.
Central to Duggins’ discussion is the dramatic influence of politics upon the space shuttle. Whether as a sword to impress foreign nations, a bribe to placate trade partners or a means toward global peace, the shuttle is shown to have had its part to play. This forms the basis of the book’s reasoning. The shuttle, upon inception, had no real purpose, so one had to be found. But, even with a purpose, constant public support was crucial. A reader’s interest in this play and counter-play of politics and public support will easily extend to an interest in this book.
However, while Duggins brings the reader along for the ride that’s been the space shuttle program, he doesn’t venture beyond. Yes, the space shuttle now has a final countdown and much discussion and effort is ongoing to regarding its successor. And, as shown, not only must the protege meet mission requirements, it must also have a mission. Nevertheless, aside from reciting some lessons learned, Duggins adds little to this. Hence, a reader looking for an enjoyable read that encompasses the space shuttle program to date will find this book warm, provoking and encompassing. Those looking for depth and deductions will be less rewarded.
Space travel has always forced harsh cold reality onto brave dreams. The space shuttle is a continuance of the dream of humankind’s aspirations to readily fly away from Earth. Pat Duggins in his book Final Countdown â€“ NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program shows the results of our best attempt, to date, to make ready space travel a reality. And, the end of the space shuttle program is just the beginning of another chapter of our space fairing dream.