Will manned space missions continue?
The US space shuttle fleet is to be grounded until at least November, following problems during the Discovery mission.
Nasa are worried because pieces of insulation broke off the fuel tank during lift-off. A similar problem fatally damaged the Colombia space shuttle in 2003.
However, the Discovery returned to earth successfully after 14 days in orbit.
Do you agree with the decision to ground Nasa's space shuttle fleet? Are manned space missions worth the risk and investment?
We discussed these issues in our global phone-in programme Talking Point with former shuttle astronaut, Dr Mary Ellen Weber, and by Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Humanity explores. It's what we do. End manned space flight and you end most of the interest the general public has in space endeavours. NASA, as a public institution, could not afford the results. Further, the nation that gives up on manned missions, and all the spin off technology it creates, will decline in an increasingly technological world.
Jeff, Downingtown, PA USA
History is full of people who have the courage to tread where others fear to tread. We need to inspire the young people of today to follow the example of the astronauts who brave the Shuttle flights. Nasa needs to expand the Shuttle programme, not look to retire the fleet before it is time.
Derek Hunter, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
NASA should certainly ground the flights until safety issues are resolved. No one wants to see another crash. But I don't see what is so difficult about the insulating foam problem on the external fuel tank. Why can't they just slip an insulated elastic fabric around it like my athletic water bottle carrier and zip it up tight?
Chrisse, Houston, Texas
I agree that the recent Shuttle launch's main mission is to test the heat shielding but they could have only sent two people, pilot Jim Kelly and mission specialist Steve Robinson who did the repair of the heat tiles while the rest of the crew was there to make up the numbers including the token woman commander whose only purpose was to prove the USA can still send a Shuttle to space even with a woman in charge.
Rather than postpone the missions, they should be cancelled. It is no longer clear what their purpose is nor where NASA is going. With its present budget and management however, it seems to be getting nowhere fast. A rethinking of the entire space program from the ground up with fresh ideas and new faces is long overdue.
Cabot, Columbus and Cook explored the world in makeshift vessels, even where great sea monsters were rumoured. Armstrong went to the moon with less computer power than the average car. Exploration has always been full of risks. Space travel is at the forefront of exploration and is therefore inherently risky. Whilst NASA is right to minimise known risks, the only way to find out if they have been eliminated is to try them.
Dave, Bristol, UK
Mankind has never achieved success in the matter of science in the first attempt so it is natural we may have to spend a lot, lose some of our brethren in the quest for understanding the universe which is worth more than wasting money on war and losing our brethren in the war field.
Gunasekharan R, Chennai, India
The manned space programme has deteriorated into an unambitious, unchallenging, mediocre effort uncharacteristic of Americans and unworthy of the support of the American people. America has the money and the technological expertise to achieve far greater. All it seems to lack is the vision and the will.
As the human race, we have as yet failed to find a way to live here on Earth peacefully. Why we would want to colonize space and take our troubles there is completely beyond my comprehension. America should be investing the money in pursuit of education and health.
Jon Mitchell, Farnham
NASA is right to ground all of their space missions until November; they are surely the only ones who know what the real risks are. The safety of their astronauts who go into space is the most important factor here, surely?
Richard, Dudley, West Midlands
People say that the shuttle is obsolete yet each shuttle was designed to do 100 flights. Discovery has just completed its 31st flight so how can it be obsolete when it is not half way through its expected life span?
Richard Dyer, Dartford, United Kingdom
The manned space programme is a breath of fresh air in a world so dominated by death and destruction. It proves humans from all races can work together to achieve a positive goal (discovering more about our origins and our destiny). The astronauts are an inspiration and it should not be underestimated just what an encouraging effect the programme has on the human race as a whole.
Samantha, Worksop, England
The space shuttle is a monument to Nasa's dogged determination to continue with a flawed concept in the face of an overwhelming reality. Looking at the Soviet/Russian model of space travel, the Soyuz design that brought Gagarin into orbit and safely back to earth, continuously improved and upgraded, has proved a cheaper, more reliable way to get personnel and materials into orbit. Why won't Nasa bring the simple, rugged, reliable, and proven Apollo vehicle back into use? What better way to return to the "glory days"?
Guillaume McDowell, Williston, VT, US
We have the Russian launch base here in Kazakhstan. The future of mankind may lie in space travel, we need it and have to do it! Of course there is risk, my personal ambition since a child is to take a space flight. That dream remains. I fully support the ISS and Mars missions - it has to be an international not just US effort.
Sean D, Atyrau, Kazakhstan
Nasa must resolve their long standing problems with the heat shield so the program can get back on track. Grounding the fleet is the only sensible way to allow the cause of the problem to be established without countdown pressure.
Alan Falck, Cape Town South Africa
It is imperative to check ageing space-craft fleet but once a clean bill of health has been given the fleet should be used for further manned explorations. The current fleet still appears to be robust. A new generation of space-craft is definitely in the pipe-line and the crucial decision to make the current US space shuttle fleet museum pieces will have to be taken in a couple of years not now.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels; Belgium
I think the whole exercise should be scrapped. If the Universe consisted of only our own solar system, maybe there would be some justification for exploration, but what do we hope to achieve in these ventures? I think Nasa would be more productive if it used its vast knowledge to come up with an alternative to oil, so the West would not be subject to the threats from countries that really don't like us. the idea that an essential item like oil comes from, sometimes hostile countries, is totally ridiculous
Richard Ryan, Australia
If exploring space was easy we would have done it before now. Let's not be so negative. At least we are up there trying 'the glass is half full', even if the Shuttle isn't a very well designed machine.
John Simmonds, Gillingham, UK
The Shuttle missions are absolutely worth any risk. There are thousands and thousands of Americans who would be willing to face possible death for the incredible experience of flying in space or to further humanity's most noble of pursuits, that of science.
Brett, Arizona, USA
Although fascinated by manned space flight, I believe the money spent on conquering space is futile. Man is never going to live anywhere else than on this planet, and it's high time we grew up to this fact. The money saved would be better spent developing ways to sustain both man and this planet's long term future.
Alistair Laing, Inverbervie, UK
So many people commenting on here about the amount of money spent on the Space programme being a waste, and should be put to better use. Whilst these people have nothing but the best intention at heart, I feel that they are choosing to ignore the reality of their comments. The money spent on Space exploration is tiny compared to the amount spent on existing humanitarian aid, military budgets and the running of our own government. This money would disappear without a trace if it were put to these causes, and would have very little effect on the overall problem
James Steele, Sydney, Australia
Anyone who cannot see that the long-term future of the human race lies in the exploration and eventual colonisation of other planets doesn't deserve the right to use resources from this planet. And the first tentative steps of this exploration depend so much on faith, foresight, perseverance and prioritising. Less fighting, more spaceflight.
Scott Snowden, London, UK
They are trying to do everything at once. They need to develop reliable space-vehicle technologies first using unmanned, robot ships. Once these are fully functional, then they can add-on the life-support/CEV systems for manned space-flight. The robot ships would enable humanity to explore our solar system and the dangers of space much more economically, prior to any development of manned missions. The travel times need to be cut down to a minimum - a couple of weeks to Mars instead of over a year. This means nuclear-powered plasma engines to ensure that the propulsion system alone minimise cosmic-radiation exposure.
James, Bucks, UK
Space is one of the few places where true exploration can take place. When did society become so scared that it was unwilling to face the risks of exploration? If you look back at the near disasters that accompanied the moon landings, you will see that the dangers then were far greater than they are now, yet the Apollo program pressed on. In doing so it achieved greatness. Today it seems we are scared to push on. While we are willing to send people off to die in Iraq for an as yet unknown purpose, we are not willing to send people into space to uncover truth and chart the unknown. We would apparently rather fight each other than fight for the future.
David Stewart, New York, USA
To all those who are in favour of American space exploration - please send money! Millions of us here in the US can't even afford health insurance and thousands of Americans die because of lack of health care. Since health insurance is tied to employment, NASA employees are very well taken care of unlike the rest of us.
Eileen Graham, Palm Bay, FL USA
Yes, the missions should be postponed. Do we really need to go to Mars when we don't even know what's at the bottom of are our seas? Is outer-space more important then our own world. Let's get things straight here before we go wondering around in space wasting money that no nation can afford.
Chris, Canadensis, USA
The mission of the shuttle is to pave the way for our (mankind not the US) domination of space. Every mission is a learning experience and with so much unknown about space exploration we had to take small steps. That is why one single shuttle mission seems pointless on the surface. However, without the shuttle there would be no talk of going to Mars.
Erik Rose, Ft Collins, USA
Oh please. Here we go again, asking whether or not space travel is safe. Really, there's no right or wrong answer. Some people say it's not safe because of the Columbia. Some people say it is safe because there have only been a few fatalities in the entire space program. But I think that space travel will never be safe, or unsafe. It will always hover neatly between the two - there will always be risks, but not to the point of a fatality a mission. People don't think they are risking their lives every time they climb into a car, or an airplane, do they? There's no real difference, apart from this time the vehicle in question is leaving Earth, and that is the reason people get into a blue funk about it.
Laura Johnson, Lancashire, UK
The tense last moments, more than at any previous time of shuttle missions showed the added dangers regarding safety of astronauts with the ageing shuttles. It would be interesting to see a cost benefit analysis of these missions apart from scientific breakthrough and prestige aspects alone. After all, it is still a project and the usual method of financial analysis should apply here too, from an investors' (the American taxpayer in this case) viewpoint.
It's ironic and depressing that the foam problems are the result of the 'green' movement requiring a change in the chemicals used to make the foam. What an expensive way to save the planet!
Colin Soames, London
Until the International Space Station is complete and fully functioning, the Shuttle mission should continue. Once this joint venture is complete, only then should we look at a Mars manned expedition.
The safety of the astronauts should come first above all else. We should continue our exploration of space as it gives something to hope for in the future.
Debbie, Edinburgh, Scotland
Without the space programme, how can we observe the atmosphere and give early weather alerts? How would we communicate through cell phone or use navigation systems in our cars which are provide by GPS systems? If someone wants to deny the benefit we've gained from the space programmes and try to shut them down, I suggest that they should also refuse to enjoy the comfort providing by the space technology.
Huan, Kaoshiung, Taiwan
To have spent a billon dollars, not fixed a fault and carried on as normal would have been unforgivable. I don't see the what the matter is with solving the heat shield problem permanently and letting the shuttles carry on a little longer while the other technology on the shuttles still work.
Ken, London, UK
I think it is right to suspend the flights until the insulation issues are solved. I would like to know more about the application and use of foam instead of other propriety insulation materials. Perhaps a double skin like a Thermos flask. I think NASA need some lateral thinking here.
Stuart Goodman, Aberdeen
With current technology, I don't think the risks are acceptable because we are basically going nowhere. Current technology involves the use of what are essentially large fireworks. If we could reach, say, Mars, we would unlikely be able to make a safe landing, let alone be capable of returning. I'm afraid without a massive leap in technology that at present is only a sci-fi dream, we are doomed to stay on this planet.
Neil Wallace, Sheffield
Right to stop the Shuttle program as it exists, but need to start manned exploration, not of Mars, but of the outer planets, moons and asteroids. The raw materials available out there has to be staggering. Ask the children what they want.
Don Colley, S Charleston, OH, USA
Out of 114 shuttle flights two were lost. I would say that is pretty good. The Shuttle is scheduled for phase out in five years at which time the new vehicle will be almost ready. What's all the fuss about?
Todd, Virginia, USA
NASA's pause in the program is appropriate, but manned space exploration, unquestionably, must go forward. Onward to Mars.
Mark, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Well, if their space missions are still based on 30 year old technology with little modifications then they are right to postpone. It has now turned into an embarrassment for the brilliant brains at NASA when launches are riddled with foam falling, sensor malfunctions and other problems. Shuttle is a beautiful but costly bird and it's time to move on to better, safer and more economical space flying technologies.
Rakesh, London, UK
I believe that space exploration should not be a national endeavour, but an international one involving all nations. Space is a frontier that we must continue to explore. It is in our nature to explore and expand our horizons. We will always have poverty and injustice if we focus inwards. Space exploration is good for the human spirit and short term grounding should only be done for safety reasons until solutions are found for the next steps.
John, NJ, USA
What everyone seems to be missing is that the faults on Discovery were the very design faults that were supposed to have been sorted out after Columbia and clearly weren't. Clearly it should be grounded until they have really solved the problem. And even then, how could anyone have any confidence when they say that they've fixed it this time?
Paul Abraham, Wallington, Surrey
So much more can be achieved at much lower cost by the use of robotic probes that it is not worth exposing humans to the dangers of space flight. After the billions of investment is there one piece of hard science that has come out of the ISS programme? I can't remember one. And the shuttle is the highest cost to orbit of any launch system. Plus it is so restricted in its altitude that a lot of carrying capacity is sacrificed to further boost motors on the payload.
Eric Pritchard, Clevedon, UK
No doubt Nasa is the hottest space research centre in the world, but truly not even US can justify undertaking manned space missions those are extremely risky. The net output is loss with objectives costing far below expenses made in such space missions. NASA belongs to a rich nation doesn't mean it can afford repeated expensive ventures when they are almost 90% certain of the results before launching any space shuttle.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India
Space flight and exploration is like fax machines, the more there is, the better each flight will be. Space exploration, whether manned or unmanned is absolutely vital to the survival of our species. However, only through manned spaceflight can we move from scientific interest to economic productivity. We should be grounding the shuttle because it is obsolete and investing billions more in its replacement, not because of safety fears which I'm sure the nay-sayers will try to use as an excuse to have funds re-diverted to 'humanitarian' causes. We shall see how much all the free food in the world avails us when a ten billion tonne asteroid punches through the atmosphere.
Thomas Bloxham, Birmingham
With a 40% catastrophic failure record in the spacecraft I would be concerned about it flying again, indeed the Civil Aviation Board would ground an airliner with such a safety record, but as Nasa has commitments to build and supply the ISS and with no other means of getting there it's either a case of risk the ride or hitch a lift with someone else. I am sure the Russians would be more than happy to stick a few Americans into space for the right sort of money.
Imagine that 500 years ago, explorers refused to sail on beyond the horizon. The earth would still be sitting in the dark ages, and no one would be reading this question in a newspaper, not to mention over the Internet. Mankind must move forward or else there will be no progress. Space is a new frontier that must be explored. It is not about money, but about rising the human spirit to seek answers to many questions.
Walter, Hong Kong
How can any government justify the money spent on these missions? With poverty, not only in third world countries but in the very countries that drive the space race, it is time to stop, think and prioritise. Space will still be there years from now - sadly millions of people who would have benefited from the money spent will have perished.
To all the people who say the money could be better spent improving life here on Earth, what do you think the space program has been doing? Countless technologies come about through the space program that improves our daily life and will continue to do so. A good example is the Scramjet research, directly related to the space program and uses hydrogen for fuel, if this technology can be perfected it would mean the end of petroleum fuelled planes and cars, what price would you put on that? People say Nasa gets too much money, I say they don't get enough, keep up the excellent work.
Andrew, Derby, UK
It is easy to say that space effort is a waste of money and that efforts should be made to improve things on earth. But space research is directly related to our future on this earth. I hope this research goes ahead.
Stephen, Brasa, Brazil
We are like children in a toy store and always want something new. We have the knowledge to sustain ourselves here in this planet - there's no need for this sort of exploration. It's time we begin treating the Earth with respect.
The United States is able to explore space and provide more food and more private donations to food programs than any other country in the world. We do more than our fair share and exceed all expectations. In fact we are the most generous nation in this world. The comments in the context of feeding dying children are frankly untrue. Exploration of space, oceans and lands ultimately benefits everyone. In fact we are communicating here via Internet as a result of ancient and modern exploration.
Brad, Chicago, USA
The shuttle, obsolete? I flew to the US and back in a Boeing 747, they first flew in the 60s. For any vehicle to achieve what the Shuttle has done just once is incredible. To do it dozens of times is astounding! And to all those people who criticise the space program; step away from your computer that uses space technology, don't watch the news in case you watch a programme beamed to you via satellite, in fact don't use any equipment manufactured after 1959 then try complaining about the space programme.
James Thiemann, Walton-On-Thames, UK
The Shuttle was just a test flight to test the heat shields and get the space program in the news again. It obviously needs funding. The problem is that a new improved space vehicle is needed and there isn't one on the drawing board. Without a new vehicle, the space program is doomed!
R Bohn, Sun City West Arizona USA
I think manned flight is more of an ego trip than science. Unmanned flights would, in my view, provide greater value for knowledge gained.
Tom Trapani, Charleston, SC USA
If only NASA was really exploring space and not just sending repairs to the space station. If that were the case I would have no problem supporting new space missions. But as it stands, with the US in over $4 trillion debt, I don't see that happening anytime soon.
Annah, Penn Yan New York, USA
For those who think NASA's budget would be better spent to solve world hunger, perhaps the answer to solving world hunger is in the continued exploration of space. Well done to NASA and the men and women supporting Discovery's mission.
Sharon, San Diego, CA, USA
I don't see why the opinions posted are predominantly non-American. It is not their money that is being used to finance these missions instead of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and curing diseases.
Leslie, Waldorf, Maryland USA
Congratulations! What now? Pollute space again? Send off more crafts to be really sure we ruin the ozone layer?!
How can we justify such flagrant profligacy when our more immediate concern should be the thousands dying every day from starvation? Space exploration can wait; dying children unfortunately can't.
The equipment is so old it's near obsolete, No one but those involved in it and the die hard followers are really interested, even the "space race" is dead, in short their shoring up old space junk with space junk for no reason except to say "hi we are alive here" . What a waste of tax money, give it to the hospitals and schools or those that need it here and now not waste it on a dream that has died except in the minds of zealots.
Xantica Ferguson, Berkshire
Miles' comment and other negative comments are discouraging. Here in the US we knew all about what the mission of the shuttle was, followed it every day and not one single newscast I saw said anything remotely resembling US supremacy. Shame on you.
Todd, Virginia, USA
More then happy to give NASA a few pennies from my weekly pay check. To think that I actually contribute to the exploration of space is a wonderful feeling that makes me proud to be a German American! Kudos to NASA on a job well done. Keep dreaming, keep shooting for the stars.
John Boudreau, Camarillo, California
Most of the opinions here are from men. Ask women what they think of the space program. Men are always pushing technology and military aggression while there are children starving around the world. Ask a woman what she would do with the millions spent on the space program. The vast majority would use it for humanitarian purposes.
Carrie, Atlanta, USA
A wonderful achievement by NASA and those in the International community who participated. Any project which brings multiple members of the International community together in a common goal, working together, increases the chances of achieving World peace some day. The advances in technology and science that come from such a project benefit so many today and into the future the payback is incalculable.
Jim H, Sudbury, USA
At not one point in any of the news broadcasts, particularly form the States, did anyone articulate the actual purpose of the mission, other than to perhaps promote US supremacy.
Miles, Wellington New Zealand
I don't know why everyone insists on referring to the Shuttle as decaying, obsolete technology. How many other completely re-usable spacecraft are capable of landing on runways just like an ordinary aircraft? It may be time for the next generation craft, but to call the whole project obsolete is a bit ridiculous. Even in spite of the two shuttle disasters, to think that the programme has routinely entered orbit since 1981 is nothing short of amazing.
Kevin, Charlotte, North Carolina
Amazing feat of technology to allow humans to explore space but this mission wasn't anything other than a repeat of previous missions. I'd rather America spend money on reducing pollution rather than put their head in the sand.
Graeme Wood, Durham, England
I woke up to a big crashing sound very early this morning. It wasn't until I got up much later that I realized that the Shuttle had landed in California and that the crashing sound was the sonic boom. Congratulations to the Discovery Shuttle. Kudos to NASA and American resolve to move forward after the Columbia tragedy.
Jennifer, Los Angeles, California
Man has an insatiable appetite for exploration in what seems to be an eternal quest to find out what is the real purpose of life. Man will keep pushing the boundaries of manned space flight even if there is are temporary lulls in space activity caused by misguided politicians. I hope that this mission does result in further Shuttle missions involving the ISS and also that the program to develop a manned successor to the Shuttle is accelerated.
Geoff Harrison, Castle Donington, Leicestershire
Human space travel is very risky and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. So are mountaineering and scuba diving, but people keep doing them. There will almost certainly be other accidents and I, for one, would much rather have more money to send more robotic craft out to places where it will be very difficult to send people, notably Mars. But while there are still heroes brave or foolish enough to go up there, and people willing to pay for them to go, I wish them all the best.
Ed Wood, Malvern, UK
With humans spending most of their time working out ways to be horrible to each other, it was fantastic to see this expression of the noblest aspects of humanity - the desire to explore, to discover and to live the adventure again. Humanity would be a smaller and meaner entity without endeavours such as this.
James, London, UK
The Discovery mission was a display of the sound technical capabilities and skills of Nasa. It instilled confidence that despite the Colombia disaster, we are still capable of carrying out missions successfully.
Rohit Das, India
I do not agree that this is a waste of money and resources - if it hadn't been spent going to space it would have been spent on guns or bombs - not the poor and needy. Well done to the guys (and gals) for getting back safely, although the recent problems only highlight the need to find an alternative method of reaching space - before yet another disaster occurs.
Andras Zoltan, Colchester, UK
The return of the space shuttle and crew safely to the ground is an assurance that NASA is about to detect and repair any problems with their missions to prevent another Columbia
Daniel Deng, Denver and Dallas, USA
On Tuesday morning I got up just before 0500, turned on the news and realised the space shuttle Discovery was in re-entry. I went outside about seven minutes before landing and looked up at the sky, which was still dark. There were absolutely no planes anywhere in sight, but suddenly out of the south-west came a small dot of light. It got brighter, passed almost over the house, and then banked left to land perfectly at Edwards Air Force Base. After it passed, there was a faint rustling sound in the air, like a far away jet airliner, but quiet with no engines, as it was gliding in. Oddly, a small meteor flash crossed its path just after it passed! I'm glad I woke up early. Because of bad weather in Florida they decided to land here in California. What a treat!
Ivan Alexander, Orange County, CA, USA
What's important about this mission is that it was commanded and piloted by a woman. And that, along with the comparative longevity of the crew, disproves two theories: that you have to be young and probably male to deal with the kind of physical, intellectual, mental and emotional stresses of this kind of adventure. I love it - ageism and sexism shot down in flames!
Patricia Sanderson, Penzance, Cornwall
I am very much in favour of a space program, but the 'success' of the Discovery mission only demonstrates that robotic missions are much better value for money. Seven astronauts were sent into space and a great deal of money spent to deliver 15 tonnes of food and water to the space station, which an unmanned flight could have done. The rest of the mission was spent looking to see if they would return safely. You need only compare this with the immense scientific value we have received from the Voyagers, the Mars Rovers and the Cassini-Huygens to see that at the moment manned missions are a white elephant.
Dan Andersen, Copenhagen, Denmark
A globally co-ordinated space programme is vital if we are ever to understand our existence. However, I am unclear on what the latest NASA mission achieved? Have we moved closer to a cure for cancer? Do we know more about the creation of the universe? Why does NASA not provide this information? Without seeing the tangible benefits of each mission, it's no wonder Americans are beginning to see the programme as an expensive adventure with no real purpose.
Burkie, Hong Kong
The space shuttle is past it's sell by date. What we need is an international effort to build a replacement that can be used by all countries, not just the US.
Jason Rice, Crawley, Sussex, UK
Clever, daring and inspirational for some but what about all the pollution? What is the point of urging everyone to be careful about pollution when this single space event created such a vast quantity? I'm not opposed to space travel, but do think it should only be undertaken when there are not other, more pressing needs to be met. Shouldn't 'hobbies' be set aside until they can be afforded with a clear conscience?
Lavinia Taylor, Colchester, Essex
It was the moment I couldn't explain in words, my heart beat was going at double the speed. Congratulations to all the astronauts. I was very excited when Discovery landed safely.
Saleem Ullah, Karachi, Pakistan
Not going to space would be akin to a Manhattanite who never left his apartment. Every shuttle mission is essential. We need to go aloft as often as possible. While the payoff may not be immediately clear each time, we will not know how it will benefit us until we look. Shame on those who think we should stay at home. There's a universe out there!
William Allen, NYC, USA
When I was young I was enthralled by space travel. As I get older I can't help thinking that there are numerous ways where the money and these scientists could be better utilised.
Nigel Collins, Brighton, UK
I'm not opposed to new technologies but how can we justify to an emaciated child in Niger why million of dollars are being spent to send us into space and not put food in her mouth? It really is as simple as that.
I was woken up by a loud bang at 5am. As a recent expat from Edinburgh, it made my day when I finally figured out I'd been woken up by the Shuttle. It still has the power to excite me, and hopefully billions of others.
Robert, Los Angeles, USA
We could always depend on NASA to get things right first time, but lately a spate of errors, wholly due to cost cutting, has marred their name. The completion of this mission means that they are, once again, out there on their own in sheer human intellect.
To everyone who complains about the 'waste of money'. Technologies created or expanded for the space program through the years have returned far, far more than the investment. The transistor was created due to requirements of the space program, as were silicon chips, Kevlar and many other composite materials, etc, etc. The space program has repaid its 'debt' many hundreds of times over.
Man builds rocket. Man goes into space. Man comes back from space. Man repeats on and off for 40 or so years. Wake me up when we get invaded by Martians.
Ben Paddon, Luton, England
Good to see money being spent on the future of mankind, rather than the selfish support of the individual. The one good thing George Bush has backed. Well done Nasa.
Jeff, London, UK
I think it is very important to continue with the shuttle programme because we need to continue to use and improve the technology of the shuttle programme to find ways of reducing costs by continuous updating the technology. Without the shuttle programme there would be no incentive to find cheaper ways to go into space. Also the shuttle technology has helped improve things here on earth particularly in the medical industry, so there are spin offs as well.
Bob H, Herts
You are all missing the point. The so-called problems of this mission have been over-hyped by the media. One of the crucial mission objectives was to carry out repairs whether the vehicle needed them or not. Also you have to remember that the shuttle routinely returned to Earth in the past with tiles missing. The program as a whole is necessary to carry on the good work of the ISS platform. The Russian shuttle is virtually identical to the Nasa one and there has been no talk of grounding theirs. Go Nasa!
Nick, Kent, UK
Insignificant, waste, absurd, you people really have no idea do you? NASA doesn't load millions of one dollar bills into the rocket boosters and set them alight you know. The money spent on these missions keeps thousands of people in work and the science of getting the shuttle into space, if not the flight itself, produces technologies and products that reach far beyond the space program. Do the rest of us a favour and learn a little before you wade in with such comments.
Willow, Warwick, UK
To be honest the details of what were achieved on the mission are largely irrelevant. What is important is that the mission went ahead and was a success, continuing foam issues aside. Space really is, as Star Trek puts it, 'the final frontier' and one which has the power to unite mankind in ways no other destination or project can. I dreamed of being an astronaut when I was younger, who didn't? Keeping that dream alive is important for my kids and keeping our slow, methodical expansion out into the solar system and beyond is essential for everyone. If we don't we might as well give up now for what are we without curiosity and wonder and how long do we really have before something on a much grander scale than us comes and does a number on Earth or the Solar System?
Geoff Hall, Bristol, England
Pretty important. We need to know it can still work and we need to be able to build on that technology. Something similar but larger is going to be needed to get to Mars and beyond and it has to be very reusable. Maybe our shuttles are going to be just that. Providing a service between earth and docking stations for larger, further travelling vehicles? In which case the shuttles need to be in good enough shape to make several trips a week.
Richard H, Essex, UK
The mission was absolutely unnecessary. We have more things and more problems to take care of. Why not spend money and energy to find alternative ways to produce fuel, recover economy, control pollution, and provide basic needs to humanity as a whole? What did we achieve with the Discovery mission?
Chinou, Houston, Texas
NASA has once again proved its mettle by going ahead with this dangerous but so very important mission not caring about the enormous criticisms it would have to face had the Discovery been an eventuality. Great job for the cause of mankind.
Mohit Kapoor, New Delhi, India
Space is a thing that has created much political competition but also is successful in uniting the citizens of the world in a time when we are becoming more and more divided each day. So yes, this mission is worthwhile both in the progression of exploration of space and in helping to come closer to solving a crucial issue here on our shared planet.
Alex, Seattle, USA
Fantastic. But so disappointed to see a number of small-minded individuals who cannot appreciate the science, challenge to continually probe space. Humankind is the product of evolvement; let it evolve as far as it can.
Paul Saunders, Worcester UK
Like many people I held my breath for the landing. In my opinion it's very important to move to the next stage now. That means abandoning the shuttle and using a new spacecraft. It's not so much that NASA are making errors, it's the outdated technology and design of the shuttle that is harming the space programme.
Alex Markov, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Every young boy at some point looks up at space and wants to be an astronaut. This mission has kept that dream alive for many more young children.
One can always debate about the viability of space missions, but then they forget that it is a science and every time a spacecraft takes off it is a new experiment and one cannot be 100% sure about the outcome. So we all must appreciate NASA for their efforts and persistence.
Kedar, Phoenix, US
Let us just enjoy the fantastic and positive use of technology, and appreciate those fortunate to become astronauts, where we only dream of doing so. Please don't let the Luddites spoil everything. After all, we have already recently lost one marvel, in Concorde.
Andy riches, Chertsey
I believe that as humans it is paramount that we continue to push the boundaries in a quest to find out what we are really doing here?
Rich, Leeds, UK
With all the suffering in this world, how can we justify spending inordinate amounts of money on space missions that provide no return for us?
Adrian Paul Miles, Wolverhampton, UK
Congratulations! It was a great success that you have achieved through hurdles. It is an example of good teamwork and hard work. Congratulations once again! And all the best for future projects.
Manali Kulkarni, Pune, India
Very happy that the mission returned safely. Still can't get a grip on how this will help the whole world in the future, certainly not at a time when starvation, disease and pestilence affect so many millions in the here and now.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago
The most remarkable aspect of this event today is the testament to scientific persistence that it demonstrates. Yes, it is expensive, yes it is technology that is rapidly becoming obsolete, but the completion of the mission is a very important stepping stone, long term, for future space exploration.
Tom Norton, Washington, DC
If venturing into space gives us more regard for the planet we take for granted then, yes, it is worthwhile.
This is an amazingly engineered spacecraft; a technical masterpiece. I can't imagine the patience one must endure to be aboard the shuttle. How can one possibly sleep enough to be completely alert and ready to return the shuttle back to mother Earth? Flying upside down, G forces, blasting in and out of almost apposing atmospheric conditions. The whole thing is just amazing.
John Perales, New York, USA
The shuttle flight was terrific. An airplane is 1920s technology that has been updated. The shuttle is 1970s technology that has been updated. You get on an airplane, don't you? Retiring the shuttle is a big mistake that I bet will change before the 2010 stated final mission. I congratulate my American brothers on a job well done. Cheers.
Jack Pearson, London, UK
I was delighted to see the brave Discovery astronauts back safe and sound. Space exploration is vitally important to the future of humanity and those who too easily criticise the programme would do well to examine their apparently limited knowledge of the issues.
Brian Parker, Luxembourg
This mission was important for the confidence of the US Space programme. People seem to forget how remarkable yet dangerous these missions are when they have appeared effortless in the past. The technological advances the Aerospace Programmes develops benefit millions of people and we need to be appreciative of the advances and courage.
Donald, Los Angeles, USA
Waste of time and resources. People need to start looking at the state of our own planet and find a way of sorting out the pollution and disease, instead of pumping millions in resources into space flights.
Having attended the Columbia launch over two years ago, it's great to see Discovery touching down safely today. It's a shame the fleet is now grounded again pending more external tank redesigns, but the US Space program is of massive benefit to humanity and has driven some incredible technologies forward. Long may it continue!
Tony Fordham, Crawley
I applaud the safe return of the astronauts and encourage Nasa to get the rest of the birds flying again as soon as possible. Space Research is the future of mankind, and for all those who complain about third world debt, or cancer research not receiving this funding, you are barking at the wrong tree. It is completely wrong to attack other researchers for their funding, lobby governments to reduce weapons spends, or divert lottery or tax income, but all true scientists, while probably envious of the funding NASA & ESA receive, should be behind them as the scrapping of any research would affect us all.
James, London, UK
Congratulations to NASA. Fantastic demonstration of 1970s technology.
It's a great day to rejoice for the whole world on this extraordinary human feat but can we make sure we don't pollute space like how we have polluted planet earth.
Science aside, the mission was important for women. Eileen Collins is a fantastic role model in leading the team with optimism and calmness in the face of serious challenges. I have felt truly inspired by her.
Liz, London, UK
It's good to see that at least NASA hasn't given up. Humanity must reach for space, even if it ends up costing many more lives.
Mark, Brisbane, Australia
Human endeavours, particularly civil aviation and aeronautical achievements often make one proud not only to be alive, but also, very much proud to be human. Humanity is enriched not only by our great works on earth, but also by our astronomical efforts in space. Congratulations NASA
Symeon Onipede, London, UK
Waste of time and resources. Nothing changes, poverty, war and insecurity is the reality of life today. Too much noise and too few results.
Although I agree that the shuttle programme is a valid expression of the ongoing human need to explore, perhaps more of the resources the USA spends on this should be diverted to resolving issued on our own planet?
Simon Lovell, London, UK
Beyond making for a good photo opportunity, it was insignificant. We need to stop wasting money in conquest of space and fighting illusionary wars and deal with real problems on the planet.
Mike Daley, Portland
I think it was important, if only to provide relief to the people that were 'stranded' on the ISS. Having said that, we are rapidly using up the natural resources of our planet and will, eventually, need to look to expand out into our solar system and beyond. The shuttle is an important part of the process that will lead to that expansion and should be kept going until someone designs a better vehicle to do the job.
Martin, Cornwall, UK
They restocked the space station - wow - what an achievement! (And a crass waste of money which could be spent elsewhere) is as much money spent each year on cancer research? I rest my case...
Marie, Surrey, UK
Well it was a good idea, it allowed them to test the newer forms of foam and whatnot, but the shuttle is showing its age, and a newer re-usable spacecraft is needed. For now the Soyuz craft keep the ISS going, and if needs be they can just use the Russian Shuttle which works perfectly. Time to work on a new craft, perhaps a new Ansari X-prize style competition will work for a new space-plane with cargo capabilities?
Robb Dunphy, Dublin, Ireland
Congratulations to NASA on a successful turn of the space shuttle. The ISS is a symbol of hope and peace and how the nations of the world can work together.
Jonathan, London, UK
After recent weeks of negative and tragic human activities (London) it is wonderful to get back on track with the positives which keep our lives progressing. Well done NASA, apart from the technical and scientific achievement of taking the shuttle up and returning it safely to earth....we can all feel the warmth of human achievement in its successful touchdown.
Ray Jaques, Mooroopn, Victoria, Australia
It's important not just for the space program but for the war against extremist terrorism. It demonstrates what we, the West, can do with technology, courage and determination. The best the enemy can do is pack a backpack full of household chemicals and, maybe, trigger an explosion that kills a few dozen innocent victims. We really don't have much to fear from them!
The Shuttle Mission was important in that it gets the US Space program back to work on the International space station. Some say its a confidence builder for NASA but lets not forget that since the Columbia accident Nasa has successfully land two working robots on Mars which no other country has been able to do and hit an Asteroid in deep space with a probe also never done before. Space exploration is dangerous but necessary, the Americans are simply getting back to work.
Jim, Boston, US
It's a very good achievement after the Columbia disaster.
G Prabhakaran, Chennai, India
In terms of actual achievement, probably not that great. In terms of rehabilitation of the shuttle, of NASA, and of the manned space programme, enormous. In terms of sheer human courage, simply incalculable.
This is great news - the way we are messing up the planet the future hope of humanity may well be in space.
Pat, Barcelona, Spain
Welcome back Discovery! Having visited the awe inspiring Kennedy Space centre earlier this year, I feel connected. They restocked the space station, successfully repaired damage in orbit and got Discovery back safely. This was a triumph. To those who pooh-poohed manned space exploration, get a life! This is truly human achievement at the highest level and we should all be deeply indebted to those willing to take the risks to take humankind forward.
AJ, Wakefield UK
A step ahead to mankind and space exploration.
Neil Azzopardi, Malta
It is of major importance just to get back on track so to speak and look forward to the future of space travel rather than at the previous attempt with Columbia.
Rhys Marshall, Tamworth
I believe that the importance of space exploration is paramount. To find the answers to so many questions that have long been posed would be a huge breakthrough for mankind - from is/was there life on Mars to how many Galaxies there are out there. The ISS and shuttle missions are just the beginning of what could be a new dawn for all mankind.
Ross B, Glasgow, UK
With the amount of news coverage that this flight has generated has re-energized the debate on space research, and this I think will have the greatest long term effect on the space program. Far greater effect than the mission itself. Being active in space exploration is an absolute need for humanity, and without active human exploration the fate of humanity as a whole is very limited.
Chip, Strafford New Hampshire USA
I was gripped by the spectacle of the Shuttle returning to Earth. It reminded me of sitting with my son as the famous Apollo 13 drama unfolded. This successful Shuttle mission has demonstrated the most important thing. Man can and must keep reaching for the stars.
Bill Stitt, Edinburgh, Lothian
It seems a great waste of resources to send humans into space for exploration when there are so many problems to resolve here on Earth, such as famine in Niger, for instance. Should we not be tackling these first?
Yara Evans, London
We need to keep pushing forward the limits of our exploration. If that means space or the deep blue sea we should go and explore, that is what life is about, Discovery.
Duncan Yates, Newcastle
First of all congratulations to the crew of Discovery and to all the ground staff. The mission has highlighted problems at the launch stage and also shown that, albeit simple, repair tasks can be undertaken in space so the experience gained will be valuable. I think another disaster would have led to an extended gap in space exploration as a new vehicle would have to be developed - Discovery and the other shuttles are now almost antiques.
There does seem, however no other way of transporting material to the space station and until a permanent space station is operational there can be no realistic prospect of manned flights either to the moon or mars due to the difficulty of escaping the earth's gravitational well.
Are space missions a good use of resources? Cutting edge technology (at the time) developed for space missions has resulted in many benefits for the average person and for the advancement of scientific knowledge I think that the space programme should continue
John Portwood, Bishop Auckland
I wish that funds allocated for arms race and space race would be the same amount allocated for poor nations in Africa!
Jojo P. Obillo, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
It's good for NASA if they get the funds to run this type of program. Because I'm not a taxpaying American I don't really care about the expense of resources. However, from an outsider's perspective, there appears to be little point in launching manned missions in space anymore.
Christian, NS, Canada
Welcome back Discovery - welcome back NASA. This mission showed that NASA is back to the highest of standards laid down by the Apollo missions.
Neil Moss, Edinburgh, Scotland
I've just watched Discovery coming into land - being at work I watched it on the BBC web site. It was a fantastic sight to see. Congratulations to the crew and everyone else involved in bringing Discovery back to earth safely.
JB, Blackpool, UK
The success of the space shuttles return has proved once again, America's dominance in space. It has also proved to be a resourceful program that will benefit the entire international community. Our future lies in the stars and I have great faith in future exploratory programs. Congrats to Discovery and her crew!
Sally Anayannis, NY, USA
This mission was important for Nasa and America and it is great news that they have made it back safely. But now it maybe time for Nasa to retire the Shuttles and look for a new safer method of space travel. Don't forget these crafts were made 2 decades ago and weren't meant to be still flying.
Matthew Rimmer, Frodsham, Cheshire
Very important, simple as that
A remarkable achievement of human capabilities and excellent team work.
Anthony Phillips, Bergues France
I just watched the landing (as I did when it took off) in awe. To me as an engineer it is hugely aspiring and is, after the loss of Concorde, one of the last engineering marvels left. Thank you Nasa.
I am so happy that this mission was completed safely for the crew. I have nothing against space travel at the appropriate time but I would rather see the money spent to improve things on earth!
Judith Keene, North Norwich, NY, USA