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Historic NASA Program Comes to a Close

At 11:29 a.m. eastern time, everyone watching the space shuttle Atlantis launch witnessed the final farewell from a storied chapter in our nation’s adventure into outer space. It blasted off and plunged into the clouds, traveling steadily and steadily faster as it broke orbit and cruised into space. Details after the jump.

An estimated 750,000 crammed into Cape Canaveral and the surrounding area to watch, wide-eyed and awe-struck, as the shuttle ascended into the heavens one last time.

The space shuttle’s destination is the international space station; its estimated date of return is July 20th, and it will land at the Kennedy space center. As this program approaches its final landing, one cannot help but reflect on the greatness surrounding this historic program in NASA.

Formed in 1981, Atlantis was one of the pioneers of  low orbit exit and return with over 30 missions in the thirty years of its existence. This is truly a bittersweet moment in American history – for these thirty years have shown our space program to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in the world. The departure of the shuttle also marks our departure from low orbit endeavors, with the President announcing commercial space flight as our next primary focus in the adventure into the great expanse of outer space.

Though Atlantis has left us, we will never forget the timeless images and memories it and all the other space shuttles have created in our mind. We have seen them all, and they are all part of our history; the images of glory, of failure, of success, and of the ingenuity of the American spirit.

Space Shuttle Atlantis
William Harwood,CBS News


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