Posted By RichC on July 21, 2011
With its recognized dual sonic booms, Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down this morning at the Kennedy Space Center completing the final scheduled shuttle flight. It ends the era successfully for NASA and opens the door to the unknown future of space exploration.
The landing was “picture perfect” and a example of what men and machines can do with dedication and training. The 5:56 AM touchdown completed STS 135 and closes the door on 30 years of utilitarian service as well as a superb platform for scientist to learn about space and our “good earth.” The program’s end comes with mixed emotion for Americans growing up with NASA and U.S. superiority in space exploration. I’m included in what I suspect is the majority wondering if America will be content with riding shotgun?
Atlantis — the last of NASA’s three surviving shuttles to retire — performed admirably during the 13-day flight.
It dropped off a full year’s worth of food and other supplies at the International Space Station, just in case upcoming deliveries get delayed.
The space station’s international partners — Russia, Europe and Japan — will continue to carry up cargo loads. And Russia will keep launching American astronauts to the orbiting lab until private industry is ready to fly people up in three to five years.
Several private companies are vying for the cargo runs and astronaut ferry flights. The front-runner hopes to make its first shipment of supplies by the end of this year.