Nyack, NY – Today marks the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic flight into earth orbit, aboard Friendship 7. As the U.S. celebrates this anniversary, the Space Frontier Foundation also looks towards the future of human spaceflight, and sees a bright future. Part of our optimism comes from the US heritage rockets and spacecraft that the Commercial Crew providers are using to build their spacecraft.
The most powerful example of that can be found in the Atlas rocket. First conceived of as a weapon of war, one of its most important uses came 50 years ago, when John Glenn rode it into earth orbit. Today’s Atlas V can trace a direct ancestry to the rocket that carried Friendship 7, and serves the US in a number of vital roles. Late last November, it launched the Curiosity probe to Mars. And now, working with NASA under an unfunded Space Act Agreement, United Launch Alliance is preparing the Atlas V to lift three different spacecraft to take US astronauts to the International Space Station.
It’s not just the Atlas V rocket that has heritage. Boeing has been heavily involved in spaceflight since its earliest days, and is now building the CST-100 spacecraft. Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser is building on the lessons learned from NASA’s HL-20 program. Even newer companies, like SpaceX and Blue Origin, draw on a history and heritage of U.S. entrepreneurialism that enabled the US to become dominant in so many industries.
“Heritage is a powerful thing,” said William Watson, Executive Director of the Space Frontier Foundation, ”particularly in spaceflight. And while we have every reason to be proud of that heritage, and should always draw important lessons from that past, we need to be careful not to worship that past. Worshiping the past can result in bad policy decisions, attempting to recreate circumstances and events that cannot be replicated. Instead, we need to move boldly forward, understand the lessons of our past, and embrace the powerful vision offered by Commercial Crew – space exploration, development and settlement.”
“The STS-1 flag that the STS-135 crew left on board the ISS stands ready to ride home on a commercial U.S. spacecraft,” continued Mr. Watson. “Leaving the flag on board is a bold statement – it says that we don’t just have hope and faith in our commercial partners, but that we KNOW they will succeed. In the decades to come, this flag retrieval will enjoy the same respect that Captain Glenn’s flight receives today.“