Thursday, July 21, 2011

Congratulations Atlantis Space Shuttle and Crew

At 5:57 A.M. this morning, Atlantis’ last flight came to an end as its wheels touched down on the tarmac at Kennedy Space Center.

It was the 135th mission for the space shuttle fleet, which altogether flew 542 million miles and circled Earth more than 21,150 times over the past three decades. The five shuttles carried 355 people from 16 countries and, altogether, spent 1,333 days in space - almost four years.

After months of decommissioning, Atlantis will be placed on public display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Discovery, the first to retire in March, will head to a Smithsonian hangar in Virginia. Endeavour, which returned from the space station on June 1, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

NASA's five space shuttles launched, saved and revitalized the Hubble Space Telescope; built the space station, the world's largest orbiting structure; and opened the final frontier to women, minorities, schoolteachers, even a prince. The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, became the oldest person ever in space, thanks to the shuttle. He was 77 at the time; he turned 90 this week.

I remember during the 60’s, when the Apollo program was in process, leading up to the Apollo 11 mission when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. Five later Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon.

I was fortunate to have been directly exposed to the Apollo era, since my first wife’s parents lived in Cocoa, Florida. We met a number of the NASA executives involved in the program during cocktail parties, etc. Also, my in-laws owned a dress shop on Cocoa Beach. Their shop was directly across the street from Ramon’s Surf, an upscale restaurant and lounge frequented by the Apollo astronauts and engineers. As a result, I met a number of the key players in the Apollo program.

Note: Some of the facts I have listed above in regard to the Space Shuttle are compliments of Huffpost AOL News. Also, I obtained some facts pertaining to the Apollo missions from Wikipedia.

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