“Atlantis” lands — what will happen now?

The era of the space shuttle is over. In the pre-dawn darkness today, the space shuttle “Atlantis” touched down for the final time, ending the shuttleprogram’s 30-year history after 133 successful landings.

As it landed, I remembered many of the previous flights but especially the two that ended so tragically, “Challenger” on January 28, 1986 just a little over a minute after takeoff, and “Columbia” on February 1, 2003, as it was re-entering the earth’s atmosphere minutes before landing.

Three shuttles remain from the program. “Atlantis” will likely be exhibited at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, “Discovery’s” home will the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, and the “Endeavour” will be housed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Yesterday, it was 42 years ago that man set foot on the moon. What will happen now? No one knows. Thousands of employees of the space program will lose, and are already losing, their jobs. If Americans want to go into space in the near future, they will have to do it with the help of the Russians. That hurts, for everyone who remembers “Sputnik.”

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