Space.com (May 14, 2010)
"The space shuttle Atlantis launched majestically into space Friday on its final planned orbital trek before NASA retires the reusable space plane and its two sister ships for good.
"Atlantis soared into clear skies from Launch Pad 39A here at Kennedy Space Center at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT).
" 'The folks have given us a great launch,' said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, said after the launch. 'The vehicle looks like it's in really clean shape, ready to go do a pretty challenging mission in front of us.' [See Atlantis' launch photos.]..."
(from NASA TV, via space.com, used w/o permission)
This is a pretty big deal, actually: and, I think, more of a beginning than an end. I was excited when the first Space Shuttle rolled to a stop on a runway, because I was seeing the first spacefaring cargo ship.
A little nostalgia aside, I'm not at all sad that the Space Shuttle has been retired - because now there are other cargo carriers in service, and many more in development. The International Space Station won't be abandoned because there aren't ways to get materials there - and it looks like it'll have company soon, as private interests put commercial facilities in Earth orbit.
- "X-37B Test Flight Scheduled For Tomorrow: Robots, Spaceships, and Feeling Safe"
(April 21, 2010)
- "Another 'Last' for the Space Shuttle Fleet"
(April 6, 2010)
- "X-37B / Orbital Test Vehicle Robot Spaceplane Now an Air Force Project"
(April 5, 2010)
- "Postcards From the Frontier"
(April 3, 2010)
- "X-51 Waverider, Bullet Trains: Change Happens"
(March 11, 2010)
- "Blue Origin: Another Company Building Spaceships"
(February 27, 2010)
- "Humanity in Space: Looking at the Big Picture"
(January 29, 2010)
- "Bigelow Aerospace: Space to Rent or Lease, in Orbit"
(January 20, 2010)