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NASA’s final shuttle is set to launch on Friday, weather permitting. The NASA space program cost taxpayers tens of billions dollars over the last 30 years.
Journalist Pat Duggins covered the shuttle program from 1986 to 2009 , while he worked at public radio station WMFE in Orlando, Florida .
He reported on the successes–including an historic meeting in orbit between Russian and American astronauts at Russia’s Mir space station in 1995– and also the failures– the explosion of the Challenger in 1986 and the crash of the Columbia in 2003, both of which killed all people on board.
With the ending of the shuttle program, Duggins says the future of NASA and America’s space program is uncertain as the Obama Administration debates whether to fund a trip to Mars.
Meanwhile, China and Russia have built out their space programs and private enterprises, both in the U.S. and abroad, are getting more involved with space travel, leading some to predict that the private sector will drive future space exploration.