Although this day has been sad, but epic, to many working for NASA's missions, Atlantis made it safely into orbit after liftoff today around 11:30 am EDT. According to an email received by those who have signed up to NASA's email subscription list entitled 'Atlantis Soars,' NASA writes "Atlantis and its four astronauts leave Earth on the final space shuttle mission, capping off an amazing 30-year program of exploration, which launched great observatories, built an International Space Station, and taught us more about how humans can live and work in space."
NASA has done an exceptional job with all of it's missions, and it's sad that NASA is being shut-down because the government can't fund it anymore.
"Good luck to you and your crew on the final flight of this true American icon. Good luck, god speed, and have a little fun up there," shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts just before launch. "Thanks to you and your team, Mike," Atlantis' commander Chris Ferguson replied. "We're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. The crew of Atlantis is ready to launch."
So, we say goodbye to the NASA's missions program after one-hundred thirty-five launches in thirty years. "The space shuttle will never streak the sky again," Christian Science Monitor writes.
But, what will happen? Published on July 1, 2010, Space.com predicted the future of NASA:
NASA is retiring its space shuttle fleet after 30 years of service to make way for future programs aimed at sending astronauts to visit an asteroid by 2025, then target missions to Mars.
The plan is part of President Obama's new space exploration proposal, which also includes the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program developing new rockets and spaceships slated to send astronauts back to the moon.
Once the space shuttles retire for good, NASA will rely on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the space station until American commercial spaceships become available.
Goodbye NASA! This may help to explain further.