The Future of Manned Spaceflight: Five Cartoons

Yesterday, the nation seemed fixated by images of the space shuttle Discovery flying over Washington on the back of a 747. The shuttle program has long been an symbol of American innovation and captured the imagination of millions across the globe, but with nothing in the pipeline to take its place, seeing the old workhorse circle around the Capital seems just like a sad reminder of an America in decline.

Here are five terrific cartoons that comment on our suddenly listless future of manned space flight.

Jeff Parker / Florida Today (click to view more cartoons by Parker)
Kirk Walters / Toledo Blade (Click to view more cartoons by Walters)
John Cole / Scranton Times-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Cole)
Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch (click to view more cartoons by Beeler)
Bob Englehart / Hartford Courant (click to view more cartoons by Englehart)

7 Cartoons About the End of the Space Shuttle

The space shuttle Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center this morning, marking the end of a successful chapter in the nation’s space program. I saw some interesting statistics from NASA on twitter this morning. This was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled nearly 126 million miles. It was also the 19th night landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a fitting end for the 135th and final space shuttle mission

The question still remains – what’s next?

John Cole, cartoonist for the Scranton Times-Tribune, thinks the U.S. is giving up more than the shuttle program…

Green Bay Press-Gazette cartoonist Joe Heller notes recent programs that are no longer flying…

According to David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star, we’re planting a different kind of flag…

While Mike Keefe of the Denver Post has a novel idea how to use the retired shuttle fleet…

Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner compares the Shuttle to other workhorses being mothballed…

Jimmy Margulies of The Record wonders what the future of U.S. manned spaceflight will be like…

While John Darkow of the Columbia Daily Tribune focuses on more immediate concerns…

RELATED: Check out our additional Space Shuttle cartoon collections!


Florida Cartoonist Looks Back at Shuttle Program

No cartoonist has been more on the front lines of the end of the Space Shuttle program that Jeff Parker, the cartoonist for the Space Coast newspaper Florida Today. Jeff has covered the space shuttle program for years, and we thought it was worth a look back at some of his more pivotal cartoons.


A Look Back at the Space Shuttle

With Atlantis set to lift off for the space shuttle’s very last flight, NASA faces the harsh reality of layoffs and questions about America’s commitment to leadership in space.

A symbol of progress and achievement, cartoonists have covered the space shuttle program for the last 30 years. Join us as we take a look back at the space shuttle program through the eyes of the nation’s best political cartoonists.

Daryl Cagle /
David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star
Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News

Click here to view more cartoons about the Space Shuttle program.


Final Space Shuttle Mission Cartoons

Over a million people are expected to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch on Friday, the final mission of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program. Everyone wonders what will come next, even as lawmakers voted today to kill off funding for the successor to the vastly successful Hubble telescope.

What do cartoonists think about the end of the Space Shuttle program? Check out our Final Space Shuttle Mission cartoon slideshow to see for yourself.

Nate Beeler / Washington Examiner (click to view slideshow)



Space Shuttle Cartoons

The baby of the space shuttle fleet, the Endeavor, lifted off from Cape Canaveral for the last time, carrying a physics experiment and spare parts to the International Space Station. It’s under the command of Mark Kelly, husband to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was on site to cheer the launch on.

How do cartoonists feel about the looming end of the highly-successful space shuttle program? Check out our End of the Space Shuttle cartoon collection to find out.

space shuttle endeavor atlantis
Bob Englehart / Hartford Courant (click to view cartoon collection)

The Space Shuttle Challenger: 25 Years Later

More than any other media, cartoons have the ability to sum up important events into one single, powerful image, and tap into the collective mood of the country.

Some perfect examples of this are a couple of cartoons drawn in light of today’s anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, which happened 25 years ago today.

The first is drawn by Jeff Parker, the staff cartoonist at Florida Today. His paper is based on the Space Coast, and one of their main beats is covering NASA, so when it came time to remember the astranauts that were killed during this tragedy, Jeff had to feel for the collective pulse of not only the community he works and lives in, but the country at large. His tribute cartoon is simple, powerful and captures the mood of the country when thinking back on this tragic event.

space shuttle challenger NASA 25th anniversary

The second cartoon comes from Dave Granlund, and touches on the impact teacher turned astronaut Christa McAuliffe continues to have on students across the country. The Challenger accident dealt a harsh blow to America in large part because Christa inspired millions of teachers and students to tune into the launch to see her become NASA’s first teacher in space.

Christa McAuliffe Teacher space shuttle challenger NASA 25th anniversary

Cartoons can do more than entertain us. They can give us insight into world events, hold politicians accountable and as these cartoons show, tap into the mood of the country to not only remember important events, but place them into the proper historical context. All in one image.