SACRAMENTO, CA - Those watching the skies above the Capitol on Friday couldn't help but find themselves excited once again about the possibility of space travel.
"I hope we keep moving forward, because it's just amazing, amazing!" Sacramento resident Shari Mann said.
The only problem, of course, is that the flight of the Endeavour spacecraft on the back of a 747 marked the end of the Space Shuttle Program, and with it, the means for the U.S. to put an astronaut into space.
Still, while California State University at Sacramento Professor and NASA Faculty Fellow Jose Granda was moved watching the fly-over from the Capitol lawn, he wasn't waxing nostalgic.
"I feel rather enthusiastic that this Space Shuttle and the others have left us with the technology to build a new vehicle," Granda said. "So, for us, the engineers, the challenge is to send the astronauts into space and bring them back safely. That's our mission."
There has been talk of a manned mission to Mars. Such a mission, however, would be extremely expensive and very complicated.
"You could have said the same thing in 1960; going to the moon would be very complex, but I am fairly optimistic because the technology is already there," Granda said. "In 2005, I was able to see the first prototypes of planes that would possibly land on Mars."
Despite Pres. Barack Obama's change of direction for the space program, Granda also believes a return to the moon could be in the cards.
"It's still a possibility and the habitats are already being developed," Granda said. "I saw the prototypes at the Johnson Space Center to build a house for the astronauts because this time they want to spend a week or two to do experiments and to do that we have to develop new technology to develop a little home for them. And that's also new motivation for the creation of new industries, new jobs in this country."
Granda participated in 17 missions of the Space Shuttle, six of those with Endeavour.
Among the accomplishments of the Space Shuttle Program, he points to improved satellite television and radio communications, the cell phone and what has now become the ubiquitous use of GPS technology.
By Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org