By the time you read this, the NASA’s Space Shuttle program would have been sent into a gradual but definite closure, as its last operational shuttle, Atlantis, takes off for its last mission, STS-135. Launching on July 8, 2011, the space shuttle will carry additional supplies to the International Space Station and return to Kennedy Space Center on July 20, 2011.
Atlantis’s mission may not seem as glamorous or exciting as the first moon landing in 1969, where Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, and a giant leap for mankind, but its significance is not lost on us.
It stands for and represents a program that has been held so close to the hearts of all Americans and many other space-enthusiasts across the globe; a program that has propelled the coveted ambition of being an, a program that has driven the fantasies of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” that much closer to reality, and a program that has made the construction and completion of the International Space Center possible.
In remembrance of the crew members who were involved in the Challenger and Columbia accidents of 1986 and 2003, this program has seen dedicated astronauts being killed in the name of space exploration, and for the sake of all mankind. Even though the shuttles have been carrying out mainly space transportation missions, they have played a momentous role in expanding mankind’s collective knowledge and in finding our place in the universe.
As Atlantis’s 4-member crew directs the shuttle back to Earth after its 12-day STS-135 mission, the shuttled will be decommissioned and retired, and the American Space Shuttle program chronicles will come to an official denouement, paving the way for another chapter in mankind’s quest of space exploration.
We wish the crew all the best as they steer Atlantis over the course of its swan song, and that in the years to come, the Space Shuttle program and the astronauts will always be remembered for the pride, honor and glory they have brought for mankind.
Twitpic via Chad Graff