Now you know this is the end—of shuttle. Today marks the first anniversary of the last-ever landing of a space shuttle, concluding that space program forever. Atlantis landed before dawn in Florida on July 21, 2011, and Anna stayed up very late in California to watch it on NASA-TV.
Click HERE for our slideshow at The Huffington Post.
If you remember that black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon’s surface, if you can recall images from the news coverage of the Challenger accident, if it ever crossed your mind that it might be fun to go to space, if you’ve realized that one of those bright dots moving in the night sky is the International Space Station or thought maybe there’s more to the universe for people to see, think of what this anniversary means: the end of U.S. manned spaceflight. As of today, the United States does not have, on its own, the capability to launch a human being into orbit or beyond.
A year ago, on July 8, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off right in front of our eyes at Kennedy Space Center. We saw the plumes, heard and felt the fundament-shaking roar of the engines and solid rocket boosters, and felt the heat waft over us. The orbiter rose into the cloud cover. The crew of four—Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus (a fellow Illinoisan), and Rex Walheim—completed the last shuttle mission to the International Space Station, spending more than twelve days circling two-hundred miles above our heads. A year ago, the crew woke to the song “God Bless America” and begin their descent. Upon landing, Commander Ferguson said, “After serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop.”
On the anniversary of that launch, we shared our slideshow with The Huffington Post. You can click HERE to scroll through those photos we took.
We also wrote a series of posts about our trip to the Space Coast for that launch, which included some amazing pre-launch, launch, and even post-launch activities, like a personal tour of Endeavour in de-processing, seeing SpaceX’s Dragon capsule (a possible corporate way to at least low-Earth orbit), and watching the last shuttle solid rocket booster hauled in from the Atlantic Ocean. You can read those posts HERE.
In case you haven’t watched our video of that launch, we’ve included it below, too. We’ll never again see anything quite like it in real life.