Twas the Shuttles last Christmas


To mark the occasion of the Shuttle’s last Christmas, space shuttle worker Terry Sibile drafted a touching poem titled; “T’was the Shuttle’s Last Christmas”.

For your enjoyment Terry’s poem is reprinted below; as it appeared at Florida Today. The poem initially was circulated via email at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and other NASA sites across the US.

According to this article at Florida Today, Terry is a member of the engineering team dealing with cranes, platforms and doors which abound at the space center.

Only 2 or 3 flights remain before the shuttle is retired – at the peak of its performance – probably around mid-2011. NASA is still evaluating whether the budget will support flying the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.

So it’s unlikely the shuttles will see another Christmas. Sibile’s poem thus marks another installment in the string of sad and bittersweet “lasts” for the shuttle program – “Our spirits were low … and soon we’d all go.”

The Space Shuttle Launch team at KSC recently created tribute displays to honor the achievements of all 5 Space Shuttle Orbiters and all the NASA and contractor workers involved. See photo above. Sibile’s poetry poignantly puts these displays into words.

‘Twas the Shuttle’s last Christmas by Terry Sibile

‘Twas the Shuttle’s last Christmas
and our spirits were low,
For the program was ending
and soon we’d all go.

We’d processed the Shuttles
with infinite care
And followed each mission
as if we were there.

We made every effort
to achieve all our goals;
We offered our talents,
our hearts and our souls.

Our work was much more
than a meager career;
‘Twas an honor and privilege
beyond all compare.

As this marvel of science
was applauded worldwide,
We looked on each Shuttle
with unfettered pride:

Columbia, Challenger,
Discovery, and then
Atlantis, Endeavour
all ferried brave men

And women to realms
past the confines of Earth,
Uncovering knowledge
of infinite worth.

We rejoiced with each mission’s
success, and we grieved
For the losses too painful
for us to conceive.

And over the years,
something wondrous took place:
We became kindred spirits,
united by Space.

And so, as we part,
I will bear a great loss.
And hope in the future
our paths again cross.

But until then, my friend,
this wish I confide:
Happy Christmas to all
— we had a great ride!

Check out this 360 degree panoramic view from inside Firing Room 4 showing all five Shuttle tribute displays; recorded during my visit with Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach. Leinbach led the effort to create the tribute displays. Courtesy of

17 Replies to “Twas the Shuttles last Christmas”

  1. Don’t count the Space Shuttle out yet. We consider having big, powerful, expensive launch system part of our national pride along with CVN’s and SSBN’s. We will vote this president out of office as we have his party in the recent election or sooner by impeaching him with the seating of our new congress, so expect this program to continue.

    1. Ah, tripleclean, our grand socialist!!!
      Do you understand what impeachment means or why you do it?

      So what crime has Obama committed (other than meet your own twisted disapproval)?

      The US economy is in a total mess, the gross inequities of the have and the have nots continues, you country is fighting a continuing financially draining war that seems to have lost its relevance. Yet Obama inherits the problem, has saved the US car industry, seeks to give equity and all, and pipsqueaks like you just want to challenge someones honesty and credibility for the sake that you disagree with what you want.
      If you want to get legally rid of Obama you have that opportunity at the next 2012 election through the ballot box. Democracy. Remember that?

      1. … and oh. To impeach a President you need a two-thirds majority. Your “new congress” (actually written as Congress, if you understood to have respect for elected representatives) doesn’t have the numbers.
        All impeachments requires an act that involves “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours” (if you’ve bothered to read the US Constitution — Article II. Section 4, I think.)
        Obama, hasn’t done anything like that, at least from the paper-thin excuses in your twisted words here.
        Your open prejudice here is plain to see.
        (Obama, BTW isn’t Islam, as 20% or 1 in 5 Americans really think. But is that an impeachable offence?)

      2. Obama is what I call the Weimar President, for he is not that different from Paupin who rolled over and let the Nazi minority take power in 1933. He is a profound disappointment. The alternative has to be considered: A manufactured celebrity or Barbie Doll who believes we need the big final war to bring Jesus back. Palin is the only GOP knucklehead with the visibility to win the GOP nomination. She does belong to a uniquely brainless denomination into this sort of second coming nonsense which features prophesy of a world war. So electing her into office to replace Obama might see a day in 2013 when she and her mindless Jesoid staff are fondling the nuclear launch codes with the idea of bringing Jesus back. Yep, that will do a whole lot for the space shuttle and space exploration!

        The space shuttle was an ill-conceived program from the beginning. Nixon, the moon President, cancelled the Apollo program to hold budgets together in order to keep funding the much bigger money drain called the Vietnam War and to end it with what he called “Peace with Honor.” Of course 1975 saw the war end in a more ignominious way. Nixon’s Vice President Agnew was given some plenary decision capacity with respect to NASA, and he pushed this shuttle program. Agnew was a twerp and a crook, as was Nixon in the end, and the shuttle program is in part a political decision from a clueless idiot.

        Nixon was the last major “liberal” President as well.

        Of all the about 130 shuttle missions less than 10% of them managed to accomplish much. I exclude the ISS space station, for largely that is a huge money sink that accomplishes little as well. The end of the program does for me have a sort of lament, more because it started launches back in my college years, and shuttle launches are sort of a feature of the age I have lived in up to now — an age that is coming to a close.

        The US manned space program was never set up with any long term vision of exploration or human presence in space. The whole thing from the beginning was a cold war program, in the so called moon race, and its later incarnation with the space shuttle was to keep ahead of the Soviet program of space stations (Salyut etc). The ISS space station was never conceived as a way of keeping humans or Americans in space, but as an orbiting diplomatic system. There is nothing about any of the NASA manned space program which was ever set up with a coherent plan to move humanity into space over the long term future.

        Maybe other nations will have better designs for this, or they too might find it impossible to work a coherent manned space program with a long term plan. America’s manned space program is entering its close out phase — let’s be honest about it.


      3. i agree with much in what you say.
        All due respect… what has that to do with impeachment of a President?
        IMO, he hasn’t done anything “criminal” to deserve it!
        He might be in your opinion be “poor in office”, but what has this to do with “stringing him up” because of changes in the space program?
        Sorry. tripleclean’s suggestion here is unfounded and mostly is ludicrous.

      4. It does not have much to do with impeaching Obama, but impeachment has little to do with the end of the shuttle program.

        There are many in this nation who wants to impeach Obama, and I suspect there might be some attempt. Clinton got impeached over a sexual peccadillo and a blue dress, and there were endless nonsense investigations such as Whitewater and the rest that went nowhere. I expect similar trends starting next year with Obama.

        Chris Hedges has been writing of late on things which are commensurate with thoughts I have had this past decade. This amounts to some rather chilling observations and suggestions:

        This nation is simply on its decline, and the Republic is being converted into veiled totalitarian system. People in the US suspect things are going wrong, and this little tea party episode is an indicator of that. However, with the electronic media and its ideological bias those who control FGHI (fear greed hate ignorance) are able motivate this for their purposes. The neoconservatives largely control FGHI.

        Obama was given twice the campaign funding McCain was given. The reason is that the so called liberals are more likely to employ the Keynesian levers and switches to protect the financial power in the nation — a power which in effect owns most things. Once that has been accomplished Obama and the Dems are disposable items — vassals no longer needed by their liege lords, the owners. Now the owners can bring the GOP back into power, the political club that will permit them to swindle the nation and the world to ever greater depths. The American system has over the last several decades evolved into a choreographed or managed structure. It is managed by those who have the money and power to control these vassal-politicians and their respective club houses: Democrats and Republicans. The system is evolving so that anyone with enough sight and mind will see it is becoming a down right fraud.


      5. “It does not have much to do with impeaching Obama, but impeachment has little to do with the end of the shuttle program.”

        In a nutshell, that was exactly my point.

        Of course the question remains.
        Did Obama have any real choice in cutting back the space program (and many other programs too) just for the sake of propping up a failing economy? Also was it Obama’s fault that the economy collapsed in the GFC?
        Also as an observer from afar, I don’t see that he had any alternative! The economic woes started more than a decade ago. Quite frankly any other elected president facing the same circumstances I doubt could do better or worst!

        As I’ve said, this poem is just sentimentality of the first degree, and romantically places glory days ahead of the reality.

        Again, I’m (and probably a majority of others) are more interested in the future, because I cannot change the past.

  2. What about a tribute to the Enterprise Shuttle? Without her the others would have never flown!!!

  3. Oh dear How archaically backwards.
    Sorry, i’m more interested in the future, because I cannot change the past.

  4. “We’d processed the Shuttles
    with infinite care”…
    Nice poem Terry Sibile, but “Infinite care” may not be the first thought that comes to mind when considering the current mysterious delays with Discovery or two previous hull losses and 14 deceased astronauts.
    In so far as poetry reaches for the truth, hopefully you will favor us with another (less reach, more truth) looking back on the successful career of the up coming Heavy Lifter.

    1. That was a cheap shot TerryG. You never worked there and have no idea of the “care” we put into processing the shuttle. For once can you keep your malicious and ignorant comments to yourself and allow us people that actually worked on this wonderful marvel to bask in it’s sunset? For 30 years we have done what you can only dream of boy.

      1. Hello,
        UT,, and other astronomy/space-news websites etc. are all concerned with analyzing the unvarnished truth, the whole truth and nothing but the … you know the rest. Debate will surely arise following contributions which may take liberties with the truth or use artistic license, but hopefully such debate never actually descends into trading personal ad-hominems.

        So with all due respect, please consider some of your previous posts such as the ones which down play obvious progress within NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, a successor to the Shuttle program. Are you sure a long standing and emotional connection to the Shuttle program isn’t coloring your objectivity, just a little? Isn’t it the winding down of the Shuttle program that’s the real source of your hurt feelings?

        The excerpt quoted from the above poem is less than truthful. There is no difficulty with letting the Shuttles bask in the sunset so long as we remember the difference between sunset and history rewrite.

        Happy holidays.

      2. Son, I think your missing the point. You and I will disagree about the Space Shuttle program, but you just had to try to be rude and throw a damper on our little going away party for the program.

        As for having a long standing and emotional connection to the program, of course I do, but I do understand and have prepared for it’s eventual end. It’s just rude know nothings such as you that don’t know when to be polite and keep their opinion to themselves during certain times is what bothers me.

        I’ve walked the walk son and many thousands of others who have put their hearts and souls into this program. Have the courtesy to let us finish this journey without your sniping from the sidelines.

      3. Yeah. they also said that after the Wright Brothers plane was scrapped, or the Model T Ford, the Edsel, the Mercury and Gemini programs, the telegraph, and the USS Monitor during the American Cvil War.
        Sorry, the Space Shuttle was the last generation’s technology. If we were to believe you, we would be wailing over the extinct of the dodo, the giant moa, the sabre-toothed tiger, and the thylacine — and they’re now all extinct!
        So please, enjoy your little party, and celebrate the good times and the old days, but make sure you let go as soon as you can.

        We all need to start developing the next new and better spacecraft program.

        As they say; “History is a prophet looking backwards.”

        Frankly. Unfettered sentimentality does nothing for the future.

      4. Hello Random.

        There’s the “point” you allude to and the conclusion you usually arrive at.

        The conclusion: You have a “walk the walk” role that trumps everything. You’ll have plenty of great anecdotal recollections which is nice, but with so much documentation of well publicized and long lived NASA programs in the public domain, anyone can for example read and quote expert testimony in Accident Investigation Board reports at will. No role makes a comment incontestable at a public website.

        The point: You call it be being “polite” in a semi-postal fashion. The point is understood, it’s just not at issue here given due consideration of intent. There’s no anger in the critique, just a references to very hard lessons which, far from being unspeakable, must never be marginalized.

        We aren’t going to agree. And that’s the way it goes sometimes.

        All the best, no hard feelings.

    2. I also do agree the reminding us of the “14 deceased astronauts” was a pretty offensive cheap shot; and if I was Random63, I’d be quite cheesed-off too. However, by your usual responses in other posts and stories, I don’t really think you meant to be disrespectful. It not usually your style.

      It is obvious to anyone with a shred of humanity that we should never forget sacrifices with their lives so that others may have a better future. The Space Shuttle maybe gone soon, but those who lost their lives should be treated with due respect and remembered. The “Honoured dead” at least deserve that much!

      1. Saying you are somebody you are not over and over again in this country is called FRAUD, repeated over and over again is a new additional crime each time. Oh Crumb to keep you safe from committing fraud we had a thing called DADT.

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