It’s the end of an era. The NASA Space shuttle program is in it’s final hours after 30 years of exploring the heavens and sparking the imaginations of millions of Americans. The final return of the Space Shuttle, Atlantis, is at hand.
NASA’s space shuttle fleet began setting records with its first launch on April 12, 1981 and continues to set high marks of achievement and endurance. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station.
As Space shuttle Atlantis’ crew is wrapping up final preparations for its planned landing at 5:56:58 a.m. EDT Thursday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, we are sitting behind our desks, in our RVs or at home, many of us unaware that this will be the final journey for a Space Shuttle crew.
I, on the other hand, will be with my grandsons as we celebrate this momentous occasion in American History. I will explain to them that the conquest of space, and it’s seemingly boundless borders, is still the last great frontier. I want them to understand that the spirit found in every American is the same spirit that propelled us to the moon, the same spirit that enabled us to breech the outer limits of our atmosphere time and again and it’s the same spirit that will put a man on Mars and take us beyond. No, I will not forget those who have piloted the shuttle to space and back. Nor will I forget the brave men and women who gave their lives for the advancement of our reach into space. I don’t expect my grandchildren to forget, or their children for that matter.
It takes just eight and a half minutes to achieve glory. Let’s hope and pray, as America turns the page of the shuttle program, it propels us into the next era of our never-ending desire to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space.