Hello universe, and welcome to CNN's Light Years!
The space shuttle is making its final "sentimental journey into history." Despite all the arguments that have been made here on CNN.com about the logic of the program ending , we couldn't help but feel a tug as we watched NASA's final feat of this type.
Exploration, of course, does not end with the NASA shuttle program. We have created this blog to serve as a home for that wondrous curiosity about space, Earth and science. You'll find stories from the global CNN network here, from cells to Soyuz, fusion to fossils.
This blog is run by people who love space, science and technology. We're the ones who wax rhapsodic about rocket launches to anyone who will listen, and who bake pies on March 14 (that's Pi Day, for the uninitiated). We are constantly searching for new information on our favorite topics, and looking for people to share it with.
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With Friday's launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis marking the end of NASA's 30 year long shuttle program, CNN's Bob Costantini talks with some career space industry workers who depended on the program for their livelihood about what they plan to do next.
To a visitor at an Irish pub in Cocoa Beach, it seems fittingly like a wake. Regulars come in wearing shirts with a variety of logos related to Space Shuttle missions. They hug, kiss and lament the passing of an era.
The Space Coast, as it's called throughout Brevard County is shivering at the thought that no one system is set to replace the shuttle regularity. Some 7,000 jobs have been or will be eliminated, once Atlantis touches down and is mothballed for the Kennedy Space Center visitors' center a few miles west of the launch pad.
"We actually watched the astronauts come out in the van. And they'd stop right there," by the launch pad, according to Garry Broughton. He started with the Shuttle in 1978, three years before the first launch. Broughton is an engineer who helped design and build up the rocket booster and tank systems.
"We'd walk out by the road and wave [the astronauts] on," Broughton recalls. "It was great, ya know!"
Broughton is 57, an age where he qualifies for a partial pension from United Space Alliance, an amalgamation of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, that does combined contract work for NASA. Only problem is, USA as it came to be known, has had to lay off about 1900 workers along the Space Coast.
"I planned on working [to] 62. I plan on going back to work," Broughton tells CNN Radio. "I just hope some money moves around here, because there's so many people looking for jobs."
He tells of friends who've taken work in Afghanistan. Others have moved away.
The Space Coast future is as cloudy as a late summer afternoon in much of Florida. There is no set path on to the next manned program, though the Obama Administration is pushing "Orion," a plan to get into deep space and maybe to Mars. President Bush wanted to get men back to the Moon.
Much of the uncertainty lies in Washington's increased budget and deficit battles. NASA is an easy target. For now, any Americans going heavenward will have to get to the International Space Station via the Russians.
For now, Broughton reflects on his 30-plus career in the space industry before considering what he'll do next.
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The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Friday morning on the final mission of America's 30-year space-shuttle program.
The four-member crew blasted off on a 12-day mission just before 11:30 a.m. The four - all shuttle veterans - are on their way to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
When a spacecraft as complex as the space shuttle lifts off, it takes an immense amount of precise coordination between those in launch control in Florida, mission control in Houston, and of course the astronauts in the space shuttle. All of this communication happens via radio traffic, and for those watching, can sound like a well-rehearsed jargon-filled diatribe.
Astronaut Douglas Wheelock took to twitter this morning to share a little insight on what some of it means to those who will be watching and listening to NASA's final space shuttle launch. FULL POST
Steve Gauvain is an instructor and flight controller for NASA's space shuttle. He's down in Florida for the final launch of Atlantis, whose crew he helped to train for rendezvous. He has worked for NASA for 14 years, and has worked in Mission Control for the last year and a half.
What got you into space?
My dad was actually a reporter for ABC local news in Houston, and he always loved anything that flew. He got himself assigned as the beat reporter for NASA, and so he would in the course of doing the stories he would actually take me and my brothers with him as he would cover NASA stuff. I actually have a picture of myself in the simulator...when I was 8 or 9 years old. I don't even remember being in there, but apparently it made an impression.
Editor's note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. Tune in to CNN's live coverage of the launch Friday, starting at 10 a.m. ET on CNN, CNN.com/Live and the CNN mobile apps. Then check out "CNN Presents: Beyond Atlantis" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
Despite a good chance of thunderstorms, the four-member crew of Atlantis climbed aboard the fueled-up ship and prepared to blast off Friday morning in the final mission of America's 30-year space shuttle program.
The very last launch for a space shuttle is set for 11:26 a.m. ET.
Editor's note: CNN senior producer Eric Marrapodi is attending his first shuttle launch. Atlantis is set to blast off Friday in the final mission of America's 30-year space shuttle program. Here are his preparations for the big moment:
4:30 a.m.: Getting there is half the battle.
I'm a rookie. This is my first shuttle launch.
FULL POST from CNN's This Just In
He's summited Mount Everest. He's walked in space seven times.
Dr. Scott Parazynski (yes, he's an M.D., too) has seen the planet from heights most people only dream of. Now he's back on the ground lending his expertise to earthly research on relatively tiny scales as chief medical officer and chief technology officer for The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston.
He shares his thoughts on the last shuttle launch and the future of space program.
Editor's Note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. Tune in to CNN's live coverage of the launch Friday, starting at 10 a.m. ET on CNN, CNN.com/Live and the CNN mobile apps. As part of our cover our teams are the ground are sharing what they are seeing and hearing during this historic day.
As Atlantis gears up for its final launch, here's the latest updates from CNN's This Just In: