Launch of Space Shuttle Enterprise Long Overdue

The road to space travel has been a long and enduring adventure for mankind, dating back to the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, to the first American manned space flights orbiting the planet to the eventual trip to the moon. Although some people may call it a race, Space Travel is an adventure that is and shall always be shared by all on planet Earth. The evidence of this shared journey is none other that the international space station that is still waiting to be completed.

Indeed the adventure into outer space is a journey that will affect all mankind, from this generation to all the future generations, shall build on the current fruits of our labors and carry on the banner of exploration and discovery. However, the space program has not been without failures and set backs, going back to the early Apollo missions, where astronauts and crew lost their lives. In one such incident, the Apollo 13 mission, the crew faced terrible odds, but managed to return safely back to Earth from their failed lunar mission. After such adversity, it seemed that the space program came to an abrupt end. Through perseverance and determination, the space program survived. With renewed effort, NASA, the stewards of the space program began a new mission into Space with the creation of the space shuttle program.

The first shuttle built to help pioneer this new mission to the final frontier was the space shuttle Enterprise. Constructed as a prototype vehicle for flight and endurance tests on the space shuttle design, the Enterprise paved the way for space flight for shuttles built after her. However, unlike her sister shuttles, the Enterprise her self never reached the heavens since she was never fully fitted for space travel. Originally intended as the second shuttle to be launched after the shuttle Columbia, the Enterprise was passed over for active duty in favor of the Challenger. The Enterprise was passed over again for a chance to be made space worthy, this time in favor of the construction of the Endeavor. As the years went by, and the shuttle launches continued, the Enterprise remained off flight duty but was still used for flight and endurance testing. Eventually the Enterprise was placed in a hanger at the Smithsonian museum once NASA felt she was no longer needed for tests, and has since faded into memory

On the cold morning of January 28th 1986, at a 11:38am, the Space Shuttle Program faced its own crisis and possible termination, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded during lift off, killing all of her crew. With a thorough investigation over the cause of the tragedy, NASA once again overcame the challenge of an uncertain future and continued the Space Shuttle program, increasing the scientific knowledge of physics space travel and astronomy such as the launch and maintenance of the Hubble telescope, which now orbits the earth. As the space shuttle program progressed, the program came to a halt with the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia upon reentry on February 1st 2003. As with the Challenger tragedy, all members of the Columbia crew perished in the explosion. Once again the Enterprise was used for structural testing to help investigate the cause of the Columbia Tragedy with the use of part of her wing. Immediately after the incident, the entire space shuttle fleet was grounded seemed indefinitely even after the investigation of the explosion was completed.

After the loss of Columbia, NASA once again faced doubt over the shuttle program until two years later when they launched Discovery on July 26th 2005. With a few problems and concerns before and after her launch, Discovery and her crew safely returned to Earth on August 9th 2005, four days more than her scheduled ten-day mission. With the success of the Discovery Mission, NASA is now at a crossroad of whether or not to continue the Space Shuttle program. There is a good chance NASA will continue the Shuttle program further advancing our goals for outer space. If NASA chooses to continue the shuttle program, then the space program will find itself at the dawn of a new age in a renewed mission. In the effort to continue the Space exploration, NASA should do so with the addition of the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the forefront of this renewed mission.

Although she may have been the first Space Shuttle to be constructed, the Enterprise was never allowed to reach outer space as her namesake on a little known television show called Star Trek, which has lasted almost 40 years. However, should NASA continue the shuttle program, the Enterprise should be put into active flight duty. Out of service and grounded for many years, the Enterprise is still capable of carrying the banner of space exploration as she did during her test flights in 1977. As her namesake on the Star Trek television show, the Enterprise is not just a vehicle that travels into space; she is also a symbol for what space exploration is about, seeking out and discovering the unknown which was the very reason why she was named after the famous ship in the television show. Because of her name, the Enterprise has a legacy that is forever linked to space exploration, and today she must be allowed to have a more active role in the Space Program.

The Enterprise has the heart and spirit to boldly take mankind to its future in the final frontier. We as a nation and as a united world must have faith in the Enterprise to bring us further into the future of space travel. When the space shuttle program finally reaches completion and the shuttles are put into retirement, the name Enterprise should carry on to the next generation of spacecraft and be given to first one built. Because of the legacy that the shuttle Enterprise may leave there might be a Starship called Enterprise exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy three hundred years from now. This ship might be given this name, not only because of a television show, but also because of a space shuttle that left a powerful legacy in space exploration.

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