Space Shuttle Program Coming To An End

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It is an end of an era.  After 30 years of Space Shuttle missions, the last launch is scheduled for Friday at 10:26 a.m.  The launch will be the beginning of the 135th and final Space Shuttle mission.

It was during the last few Apollo missions that NASA saw the need for a new way to get into space, and thus was born the Space Shuttle that we know so well today.

“There was something about that thing launching into the evening and that great golden pillar of fire that was rising up into space and you could hear the crackling and the popping,” said Ron DiIulio, the director of the astronomy at UNT and a NASA Solar System Ambassador.

DiIulio described the last nighttime shuttle launch he saw.

“You feel your heart pounding and your body is pounding from the pressures of those pops, and you think, ‘My goodness, we did this,” DiIulio told The 33 News.

DiIluio has spent much of his career following the Space Shuttle Program.

“The space shuttle has probably brought more benefits to us than anyone can imagine,” he said.

DiIlulio said the Space Shuttle has become the stepping stone for our next great space adventures.

“How can we grow food, recycle water, how can we survive in space, that’s what the shuttle has done for us and done a heck of a program over 30 years,” said DiIulio.

The Space Shuttle is perhaps the greatest example of human ingenuity.  It launches like a rocket, turns into a place where astronauts can live and work while orbiting above Earth at more than 17,000 mph, and then lands like a plane after withstanding 2,300 degree heat upon reentry.

“I think the Space Shuttle probably represents the most complex interaction of systems ever designed by humans,” DiIluio told The 33 News.

For DiIulio, who has thousands of pieces of space memorabilia, every shuttle launch is something special.

“It’s inspiring when everybody sees the launch and cheers, you just can’t help but get caught up in it,” he said.

And yet, for the final launch, it may be too emotional of a moment for the space enthusiast.

“I’ve spent my whole career watching the shuttle and being a part of the shuttle program.  At this particular point, I decided I didn’t want to see this one,” said DiIluio.

The future of manned space travel in the U.S. will shift to the private sector after President Barack Obama decided to cut funding for the NASA manned space program.

Also on the minds of many who will watch the launch Friday are those who were lost during the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters.  Despite those two tragedies, those who follow space travel closely are calling the Space Shuttle Program an unbelievable success.

NASA said there is a 30 percent chance for a launch Friday due to weather.

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