Well, this is it. The last shuttle launch has come and gone.
I don’t know if you were riveted to the tv; watching NASA’s life coverage online; waiting anxiously for launch control to say, “We have liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis.” But I was.
Maybe it’s my childhood ties to NASA: wanting to be a space shuttle pilot, memorizing books of space facts, watching the shuttles each time they left the pad, and dreaming of peering out a window to see Earth below. Maybe it’s that part of me still dreams.
Regardless, it is a bittersweet ending. The flight was flawless, but when Atlantis comes home, that’s it. It stays in Florida as a permanent display piece. Endeavour moves to California. Discovery goes to Virginia. Columbia and Challenger’s remains stay at their final resting places in Cape Canaveral.
Atlantis, Endeavour, and Discovery will never again wait in the VAB while the boosters are put into place. Never again travel on the crawler.
Never again sit on the pad. Never again visit space.
One era has ended years overdue. Hopefully, it won’t take long for the next–whatever it will be–to begin.