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Opening Arguments

First of the last

Tempus fugit, but the shuttle won't for long:

From top mission controllers on through the ranks of astronauts and shuttle workers, reverence reigns over the upcoming last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis - the first of NASA's final shuttle missions this year.


Atlantis is set to make her 32nd and final planned launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday. The mission is the third-to-last shuttle flight ever. The orbiter is slated to carry six astronauts and a new Russian science module to the International Space Station.


"There is a little bit of reverence that the mission will be conducted with given that it's the final planned flight of Atlantis," said NASA lead shuttle flight director Mike Sarafin.

I know the shuttle has outlived its usefulness and it's time to move on, but I can't help feeling a little sad. I probably would have shed a tear or two when the train came along and made the stagecoach obsolete, too. I remember all of us standing around the TV set in the newsroom in the shuttle's early days, watching in awe as one of them landed after another successful mission. Now we barely pay attention unless something goes wrong. Such human adventure needs a sense of wonder and excitement, so we can't afford to let things get too humdrum, I suppose. "