Just as dark clouds threatened to scrub Friday’s planned launch of the final space shuttle mission, clouds over NASA’s role in human spaceflight could reduce opportunities for elite military pilots to take the ultimate next step upward.
A cloudy dawn broke over Kennedy Space Center, but unlike yesterday, tiny patches of clear sky are peeking through. Significantly, there’s been none of the lightning that raised temporary concern yesterday when a strike was measured within one-third of a mile of the launch pad.
Despite the steady rain that threatened to delay the launch if it continued, hundreds – perhaps thousands – had already staked out their spots for miles along the Titusville waterfront and just across the bridge leading to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Among the news briefings and demonstrations of arcane space technology NASA had prepared for journalists in the days leading up to Friday’s scheduled shuttle launch, one stood out – a government-organized tour of a private space firm’s launch facility.
A panel of NASA-affiliated scientists gathered Wednesday morning to hype the agency’s upcoming science missions and, though the topic was never directly raised, fight the developing storyline that the end of the shuttle program means NASA has somehow lost its mojo.
Bamiyan, a picturesque but deeply impoverished province in north-central Afghanistan, has remained largely peaceful since international forces left earlier this year, but now a neighbor’s instability is making life difficult for residents.
Less than an hour’s drive from the sleepy city of Bamiyan, with its giant Buddhas, nascent tourism industry, and zero foreign troops, this rugged mountain district in what many consider the safest province in the country has quietly become a tense battleground between government forces and insurgents. It may provide a peek at what Afghanistan faces in a post-NATO world.
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