South Carolina ETV was there as the first space shuttle was launched on April 12, 1981. What possibilities lie ahead? What problems?
After several years of delays, the space shuttle Columbia launched and captured the imagination of the American public. Since then, budget cuts have forced NASA officials to trim the number of flights planned over the next several years. Advocates hailed the launch as a prelude for a string of initiatives that could lead to space industry and colonization. Critics say the shuttle is too expensive and has survived budget cuts solely because of military and defense needs. The shuttle launch ended nearly six years pf American inactivity in space, while the Soviet Union was continuing its manned orbital activities.
Dr. LeConte Cathey of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of South Carolina reflects on the launch and what a magnificent engineering feat occurred when it lifted off and performed perfectly, with the exception of a few tiles and some computer equipment that was duplicated. He discusses the costs of the space program, and compares satellites to a manned orbiter. He mentions technologies of the future and the cost of creating a living environment for human beings in space, and questions that abound about the future and the technologies that could be advanced. (Produced in 1981)