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"Sadness" prevalent as America's Space Shuttle era comes to an end

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The final space shuttle launch of NASA's Atlantis on July 8, 2011
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COMMENTARY

OKLAHOMA CITY – For those fascinated with America’s Space
Shuttle program and the exploration of space, today is a bit bittersweet.

Today is the end of an era of NASA-led spaceflight. The Atlantis Space Shuttle took off this
morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its final mission – and the
last mission of the remaining Space Shuttle fleet. We wish the crew a
successful mission and a safe return.

At a very early age I was fascinated with space travel and
the exploration of space. The final Apollo
mission – Apollo 17 – took place when
I was a mere baby. A few years later I was only vaguely aware of Skylab and later its fiery return to
Earth in July 1979. It would be the first launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle in 1981 that really captured my attention.

I distinctly remember, right before the launch, playing with
Star Wars spaceship toys in my friend
Jason’s backyard and tossing a ship in the air and watching it crash to the
ground. I told Jason that that was what was going to happen to Columbia (call me a pessimist).
Fortunately the first launch was successful, although, sadly, Columbia would disintegrate over Texas
and western Louisiana while I was a reporter at a Louisiana newspaper. Covering
that event was depressing, as was hearing about the loss of the Challenger 17 years earlier.

And just by coincidence, doing some freelance work for The Norman Transcript last week, I had a
chance to briefly interview Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to
walk in space.

I wrote: And while not
directly weather-related, Sullivan briefly discussed the upcoming end of the
NASA Space Shuttle fleet and said that while she expects to feel some “sadness”
about the end of the Space Shuttle, she still intends to go to Cape Canaveral
on July 8 and watch the final launch of the final shuttle mission — the
Atlantis — the last Space Shuttle she flew aboard back in 1992
.

And now, Atlantis is in orbit around Earth. But many of us,
proud Americans who desire a serious and strong space program, are saddened
that after 30 years our Space Shuttle program is ending and that from here on
out we will be hitching rides with the Russians or waiting for private rockets
to take our astronauts up to the International Space Station.

Said NASA astronaut Terry Virts in a FoxNews.com story: “It’s
a sad time. The sad part about ti is that we won’t have an American ability to
launch astronauts anymore.”

And while I have serious questions about certain aspects of our
space missions over the past four-plus decades, I do admire those men and women
who have taken the trip beyond Earth’s atmosphere in a desire to explore and learn
new things about our universe.

Copyright 2011 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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