To infinity and bitterness
Houston, NASA's spurned wife, watches as Florida hogs the Atlantis final flightglory too
Considering how much the space program means to Houston, it seems almost unfair that the last big hurrahs of NASA's manned flight program all put Florida front and center.
Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, with their sunshine, orange juice, Harry Potter theme parks and shuttle launches might be NASA's glamorous mistress, but Houston is the ever-loyal wife.
The third to last NASA space shuttle launch and the last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. More than 40,000 people — the biggest launch-day crowd in years — watched the Atlantis' liftoff on a weekday afternoon, showing that there may be renewed interest in the shuttle program just as it hits its final days.
For its 12-day mission, Atlantis delivers six astronauts to the International Space Station to deliver an "integrated cargo carrier and a Russian-built mini research module."
If blasting into outer space could ever be considered routine, this would have been a completely routine trip and liftoff were it not for the fact that when it returns, the Atlantis will be out of commission barring an emergency related to the two last shuttle missions — the Discovery, scheduled for Sept. 16, and the Endeavor in November. The Atlantis has been in operation for almost 25 years, taking off for the first time on October 3, 1985.