It was a sad moment at 11:29 a.m. today as three decades of NASA's manned shuttle program came to a close with Atlantis firing into the sky for the final time.
Atlantis is carrying four astronauts on a 12-day mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The shuttle first flew on Oct. 3, 1985 and, upon its return to Earth, will be retired and quietly await visitors in its future home at the Kennedy Space Center.
I once dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but realized that dream wouldn’t become a reality due to laziness and atrocious math scores. Even so, I thought I would see at least one live launch in my lifetime. I nearly had my chance in 2007 when I dutifully attended a friend’s wedding in Florida which coincided with a scheduled launch. That friend has now filed for divorce from her husband, but I am not bitter about sticking around for the third replay of the Macarena when a quick drive would have landed me at Cape Canveral, as I have learned two valuable lessons from this: some things in life shouldn’t be taken for granted and postponed to some future day; and, being a good person is not worth it.
Even if our chance to see a live launch has come and gone at this point, the program that plans to focus now on deep space missions is not going anywhere, according to NASA's website:
"The end of the space shuttle program does not mean the end of NASA, or even of NASA sending humans into space. NASA has a robust program of exploration, technology development and scientific research that will last for years to come.”