The space shuttle Atlantis is planned to be launched in a week on June 8, 2007 at 7:38 pm EST (6:38 pm CST). It’s mission is to continue construction on the International Space Station. This is the United States’ 118th shuttle launch.
STS-117 Press Kit (5.9MB PDF)
In my opinion, if space exploration is left in the hands of governments who have nothing better to do than to declare each other belonging to various axes of evil, it will take a long, long time to get anywhere. Sure, international animosity is what initially spurred fantastic advances in space exploration forty years ago, but, from a military point of view, there’s little point going beyond orbit around the earth. If you further, it gets harder to see and/or shoot your enemies from space.
Commercial interest is needed to advance space exploration at this point, I’m afraid. Without the development of reliable and inexpensive space travel, which could probably only come about as a result of economic competition, we’re not going to see much more of this amazing universe. The problem with spurring commercial interest in space is that there’s not much out there given our current reach. Aside from a space hotel, what else is there for entrepreneurs to exploit?
It’s hard to reach for the stars when you have a rifle in one hand and a dollar in the other. Maybe that’s for the best.