The final launch of the Atlantis orbiter and the final mission of the space shuttle program took place on 8 July 2011 at 11:26 a.m. Through the efforts of Congressman John Mica, our family was able to view the launch from the NASA Causeway at the Kennedy Space Center about 6 miles from launchpad 39A.
As Congressional invitees, we were transported to the viewing site by bus from the Merritt Square Mall parking lot. While waiting for our bus to depart, one of the many astronauts assigned to speak with visitors that day, Astronaut Douglas Wheelock boarded the bus and talked with us for several minutes about what the Shuttle Program meant to him, contrasting the Shuttle to the Russian Soyuz.
Astronaut Wheelock shared his thoughts on the loss of the Shuttle having launched and landed in the Russian Soyuz. He compared landing in the orbiter to returning to earth in a stretched limo, while landing in the Soyuz to being stuffed into a barrel, lighted on fire and tossed over Niagra Falls.
Over the years, our family viewed many shuttle launches from the NASA Causeway having requested and received PA-Passes from NASA. The PA (Public Access) Pass permitted individuals to drive onto the Kennedy Space Center property in their private vehicles, park along the causeway and view the launches. NASA provided portable restrooms, food and souvenir concessions, and audio of Mission Control, Launch Control and the Shuttle Commander.
I attended 37 launches including STS-135 but that doesn’t mean I have been on the Causeway viewing the Shuttle through binoculars only 37 times! Remember – the shuttle did not always launch on the first try!
This is the letter I wrote to thank Congressman Mica and his staff and the staff in the NASA Headquarters
Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
“Our family just wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the
opportunity to see the last launch of Atlantis. Astronaut Wheelock came on our bus
before leaving the parking lot and spoke with us which was amazing! I have been
a fan and supporter of the space program since I was a very little girl. I would
get permission to bring my huge black and white TV to class so “my schoolmates”
– (so I) could see the launches of Gemini and Apollo live instead of waiting for the CBS
evening news with Walter Cronkite for the film. I was 14 years old when
Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and can tell you where I was and who was with
me around the TV set.
I am disheartened and saddened that we now must rely on Russia for access to the
ISS (International Space Station). The orbiter is the most graceful spacecraft I have
ever seen. It appears like a radiant angel when it is attached to the liquid fuel tank
and SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) on the lanch pad bathed in Xenon lights.
I visited the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) in 1976 before the shuttle program and
it was a heartbreaking experience. It was an empty shell with a giftshop. We can not traffic
in space memories and trinkets. The United States in some fashion must be a leader in
in the exploration of space and, therefore, benefit from the patents and copyrights on
technology created when we lead.
Kim Marie Peters and Family”
This is the NASA Mission Summary for STS-135 - the final launch of Atlantis scheduled for 11:26 a.m. 8 July 2011.
Launch Itinerary sent to the Peters Family - Congressional invitees to the final mission of Atlantis 8 July 2011 at 11:26 a.m.