STS-135, Atlantis, lifted off earlier today on the last launch of any meaning for the foreseeable future. As I type this, there are friends of mine on the launch team with all kinds of emotions running through them. Many people have been laid off with many, many more heading out the door later this month. Sad stuff. The entire launch team is like a family with a common purpose. They did their jobs well and with passion and they are justifiably proud of their 30 years worth of accomplishments. After wheel stop on this mission, the US will no longer have a Manned Space Flight Program, at least an active one. Time to move on.

The first launch I saw live was STS-6 (Challenger). Today I stayed home, unwilling to brave the roads to watch from close up. 1,000,000 people all hopping in their cars at the same time is not my idea of fun. (I talked a bit about that here.) I watched from my back yard but, due to weather, I only saw it for about 2 seconds before it slipped into the clouds. The view below is a quick shot from my backyard. It’s something that every taxpayer should have seen at least once. I was very fortunate. I can only hope that I will have the chance to see men launched from KSC again before I retire. Odds are not good at this point, but you never know.

PS: A huge pat on the back to every member of the Launch Processing System (LPS) team, past and present. LPS comprises the Computer and Display Systems that checkout and launch the Shuttle. During 30 years of operations, there was never a launch delay due to an issue with LPS. That’s the kind of people I work with. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

STS-6 Rollout, Spring of 1983

STS-135, 7/8/11

Yours truly in the Orbiter Pilots seat, Long, long ago