Atlantis embarks on final shuttle mission
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - With a cry from its commander to "light this fire one more time," the last shuttle thundered into orbit Friday on a cargo run that will close out three decades of both triumph and tragedy for NASA and usher in a period of uncertainty for America's space program.
After some last-minute suspense over the weather and a piece of launch-pad equipment, Atlantis and its four astronauts blasted off practically on schedule at 11:29 a.m., pierced a shroud of clouds and settled flawlessly into orbit in front of a crowd estimated at close to 1 million, the size of the throng that watched Apollo 11 shoot the moon in 1969.
BY KAYLA BELL
How has your view of space exploration changed since the first shuttle launch in 1981?
I always liked the idea of the probes because they go further than shuttles ... Since the 1970s, there hasn't been any sort of great discoveries. No one gets excited about it anymore.
JoAnn Horadam, oil field, Victoria
Space used to be really mystical ... The more we venture into it, the more it seems bland, kind of like the moon. At first, it was really romantic, but now it doesn't have the same air about it.
Anthony Keiffer, student, Victoria
For me, it's just kind of a continual hope. I'd really like to go into space someday. I'd really love it if in my lifetime that could be something that could happen.
Chris Pepper, Ruston, La.
I think it's a shame it's closing down. We have to stay in the race, following the rest of the big nations.
Patsy Cox, retired, El Campo
I 'm in the medical profession, and a lot of our equipment came from the research that the space program had. I think it's a shame. We ought to be spending our money on something like that.
Donna Treadwell, registered nurse, Cuero
I remember when they landed Neil Armstrong on the moon ... I wish they'd land back on the moon. A lot of the space shuttle pilots are military pilots, so as former military, I'm all for them to go as far as they want.
James Smith, retired, Victoria
I think it's extraordinary what they do. It would be really cool if they could, in the future,have missions for regular people. It does intrigue me.
Ray Gonzalez, Walmart, Port Lavaca
I think it's a big waste of taxpayer money. What does it accomplish? What are we learning from it? Maybe not in the beginning, but it seems to be stagnant.
Howard Hitchcock, retired, Victoria