Welcome home, Atlantis. Farewell, Shuttle

All the photos on this page are from the NASA website:  www.nasa.gov

Shuttle Atlantis touched down this morning at 5:58 EDT, bringing to an end the Space Shuttle program, after 30 years of flight.

I watched entranced, 42 years ago yesterday, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

As a child in grade school in the 60's, every Gemini and Apollo launch was watched on a TV wheeled into the room just for that purpose.  I was captivated by the space program, as so many of my generation were.  The space program was a ray of hope during the bitter decade of the 60's, and inspired me to study science and math, and go on to become an engineer.  

I recall holding my breath as Columbia landed for the first time, in 1981.   I watched dumbstruck as Challenger broke apart in 1986.

And I have been wholly amazed at the construction of the International Space Station.  Not only a marvel of engineering; not only like building a ship in the middle of the ocean from the keel up, but of the international cooperation between countries that only a few years ago were bitter enemies.

Interestingly, we cooperate better in space with former enemies and rivals, than we do within our own congress.

In space we speak a common language of committment, focus, dedication, and passion .  Surely this is a legacy that must be passed on to our children.  If we do nothing else as a country, we should inspire our children to dream beyond their horizons, to be passionate and focused and dedicated.  The space program brings out the very best in us, and shows us just what amazing things we can accomplish, when we work together.

Welcome home Atlantis!  Godspeed, NASA, on your next manned mission of discovery.  I hope the wait will not be too long.