Decommissioning the Space Shuttles

Decommissioning the Space Shuttles:
Starting next month, NASA will begin delivering its four Space Shuttle orbiters to their final destinations. After an extensive decommissioning process, the fleet -- which includes three former working spacecraft and one test orbiter -- is nearly ready for public display. On April 17, the shuttle Discovery will be attached to a modified 747 Jumbo Jet for transport to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Endeavour will go to Los Angeles in mid-September, and in early 2013, Atlantis will take its place on permanent display at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Test orbiter Enterprise will fly to New York City next month. Gathered here are images of NASA's final days spent processing the Space Shuttle fleet. [35 photos]

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis is illuminated one last time during preparations to power down Atlantis during Space Shuttle Program transition and retirement activities, on December 22, 2011. Atlantis is being prepared for public display in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)


I write this from outside my apt building, where the weather is just about as perfect as can be: today started off at 35 degrees and windy, a last gasp of winter that made me regret leaving my heavy jacket at the office, but by 1 pm it was about 73 degrees with a constant cool breeze that perfectly balanced the temperature. It’s still around 70, maybe 69 now, but the sky is cloudless and the wind is extraordinary. The nearby Catholic school’s bells are ringing – I’ve never been outside long enough to hear them before. J

The Supreme Court today, it seems, acted a bit skeptical of the individual mandate that the government asserted as part of the Affordable Care Act. There are a whole litany of things to talk about here: how much I think the Commerce Clause has been twisted and expanded over the years, or how this decision might harm the Court’s image, especially if it’s 5-4 along partisan lines of Reagan, bush, and bush II vs Clinton and Obama appointees. But I want to talk about this: our current national focus is on what a bunch of robed people will be writing down in a few months. These people command no armies; they can’t summon militas, and they aren’t (let’s be honest) super intimidating.

What they are is part of a structure of the rule of law in the US, something that I value immensely. We are a country where bribes don’t happen as they happen elsewhere; where coups aren’t possible. Ours is a place where, within 30 seconds of WHEREEVER you are right now, there is a working, flushing toilet.

That’s amazing.

As we fight and squabble and lie to each other about who was which way when and why, we forget the profound blessing to have running water, a working 911 service, and the opportunity (for most of us) to have known and spent time with our families growing up. Many children are not so lucky. Just the fact that I can do this – plop down on the grass and not worry about my backpack being stolen is worthwhile, however much my neighbors are strangers.

So while everyone is hankering, I’ll listen to the oral arguments tonight, but I’ll be smiling, because I live in a place where we hold ourselves to the law, most of the time, and I’ll remember how much that is something to appreciate and preserve.