One year ago today, the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) made its final landing after 39 flights. Discovery, which flew the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, performed both research and International Space Station assembly missions.
It was the first operational shuttle to be retired and its decommissioning was a historic event. It’s good that it will soon be on display at the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Air and Space Museum at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia (even though it will replace Enterprise which, hopefully, won’t be lost in the archives) as it’s an important piece of scientific history and supply management history. The official welcoming ceremony will take place next month on April 19th and it will be on public display soon after.
With the creation of the International Space Station, Supply Management, for the first time, became an extra-planetary concern in November of 2000 when the first resident crew, Expedition 1, arrived. Since then, the five cooperating space agencies (NASA, RKA, JAXA, ESA, and CSA) have had to insure not only the capability to continuously supply the crew with the supplies they needed, but have had to insure that the materials necessary for the station’s maintenance and continued instruction arrive in a timely fashion. Discovery was a key component in the station’s maintenance, having delivered modules and supplies over the last twelve years.
The twenty-first century introduced us to the beginnings of Solar Supply Management, and if Space Adventures has its way, the ISS and the Supply Management challenges it created are just the beginning. Space Adventures is proposing a Lunar Mission and the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) is proposing a Lunar Ark. If either of these projects, or a replacement project, come to fruition, we may soon be managing orbital supply chains. It could be a very interesting century for Supply Management indeed!