THE FINAL SHUTTLE mission ended successfully at the Kennedy Space Center today and I feel as though a chapter of my own life has closed too. I never wanted to be an astronaut but I trained two pilots who later became NASA pilots. Back in the 60s, when I watched the American space programme take off, I was happy shooting air-powered rockets over our two-story home. Rockets, lunar missions and reusable orbiters sounded far-fetched and significantly more technical than we could comprehend in our rotary phone home. The pace of the technology is what amazes me the most. The idea for the shuttle was pulsating through the ARPANET from its earliest days. If I rewind my own life back to those times, I see life through mechanical camera lenses because CCD technology was just finding its way onto broadcast cameras. Today, I carry an HD cameraphone in my pocket and its mobile CMOS sensor that lets me capture high-quality movies and stills better than early shuttle photo documentation. I had a slide rule and then a mechanical flight computer--and so did every astronaut who piloted a shuttle mission. My head is swimming with all these comparisons because I believe the space programme inspired a lot of what we enjoy in the field of consumer electronics today. With the final shuttle landing and all the high-flying space exploration drawing down, I wonder where all the big spin-offs will arise during the lifetime of my young children.
Watch a playlist of NASA shuttle missions on YouTube.