Best of 2012: #5: Changing of the (Space) Guard.

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2012 was a big year that saw us retire a ship that made us believe in Space, and replace it with a vessel that shows the reality of going to space.  2012 was the year of Endeavour’s Retirement and Dragon X’s Birth

READ MORE // Exoplanet next door looks a lot like Earth

Technically, we said our goodbyes to the Space Shuttle program in 2011, as NASA’s long time workhorse fleet were grounded and retired.

In 2012, all 4 remaining shuttles made their own journeys – to a resting place in a museum or space centre.

Space Shuttle Atlantic ended up at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.  It was the last to go to space, and the last to land in its final resting place, moving a mere 10 miles to where it now sits.

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Last flight

Discovery, ended up in Virginia, at the Smithsonian National air and space museum.  Discovery earned the honour of clocking the most miles of any shuttle – 148 Million.

Space Shuttle Enterprise was originally designed as a prototype, and never actually flew.  It made headlines as it flew from Washington to New York on the back of  a 747.

Endeavour had the most enamouring goodbye journey; crossing the bustling streets of Los Angeles, towed behind a truck as trees and Traffic signs were cut down.  It came to rest at the California Science Centre.

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Last flight

While these retirements were huge, a brand new day in Spaceflight was launch.  No NASA shuttles may have flown, but SpaceX managed to send nearly 900 lbs of cargo on its first official mission to the International Space Station, merely months after its demonstration flight in May.

Space X's Dragon Capsule Docks with ISS

 

SpaceX and NASA have come to terms on a contract for a dozen cargo trip to and from ISS.

The bigger story is this:  SpaceX isn’t alone.

Orbital Sciences is under contract with NASA and is set to launch its own demonstration, and Virgin Galactic have completed high altitude tests, as well as finishing construction on SpacePort America.

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2012 saw a changing of the guard, and ushered in a brave new dawn for space flight, both commercial and otherwise.  WIll 2013 see spaceflights become mainstream?  Will 10 years down the road see Spaceports become as day-to-day as Airports?

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