Famous “Last” Words for the Shuttle Program

Article written: 9 Jul , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Friday July 8, 2011 was a significant historic day for NASA – one that will go down in history as the day of the final space shuttle launch. Here are a few of the historic “last” words spoken by the launch control team and the astronauts just before Atlantis headed off into history, as well as words from some other notable folks after the launch:

Launch director Mike Leinbach always has some final words to tell the astronauts awaiting on the launch pad that the launch team has all given a “go” for launch. Here’s his send-off:

Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach talks with reporters. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

“OK, Fergie, (commander Chris Ferguson) we’re starting to feel pretty good here on the ground about this one today, so on behalf of the greatest team in the world, good luck to you and your crew on the final flight of this true American icon. And so for the final time, Fergie, Doug, Sandy and Rex, good luck, Godspeed and have a little fun up there.”

The final Space Shuttle Crew for STS 135. The crew was greeted and given a rousing sendoff of cheers by hundreds of journalists and NASA employees and managers. From left: Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson. Credit: Ken Kremer

In reply, Ferguson said, “Hey, thanks to you and your team, Mike and until the very end, you all made it look easy. The shuttle’s always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through. We’re not ending the journey today, Mike, we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. You and the thousands of men and women who gave their hearts, souls and their lives to the cause of exploration. Let’s light this fire one more time, Mike, and witness this nation at its best.”

Another very touching send-off was from the members of the close-out crew at the launchpad, who held up a series of signs in front of the camera in the white room that gave this message:

“On behalf of all who have designed and built…
Serviced & loaded… launched & controlled…
Operated & flown these magnificent space vehicles…
Thanks for 30 years with our nations’ space shuttles
Godspeed Atlantis.
God bless America”

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden released a video statement after the launch:

US President Barack Obama released his own statement after the launch. (Not the reference to going to Mars, which may be the most direct statement made by a president about the US space program intending to go to the Red Planet):

“Today, Americans across the country watched with pride as four of our fellow citizens blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and America reached for the heavens once more.

Behind Atlantis and her crew of brave astronauts stand thousands of dedicated workers who have poured their hearts and souls into America’s Space Shuttle program over the past three decades. To them and all of NASA’s incredible workforce, I want to express my sincere gratitude. You helped our country lead the space age, and you continue to inspire us each day.

“Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth. And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it.

Congratulations to Atlantis, her astronauts, and the people of America’s space program on a picture-perfect launch, and good luck on the rest of your mission to the International Space Station, and for a safe return home. I know the American people share my pride at what we have accomplished as a nation, and my excitement about the next chapter of our preeminence in space.”

Do you have any last words for the space shuttle program?

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23 Responses

  1. Rajat Sahu says

    It fills me with nostalgia..

    • Anonymous says

      I am certainly saddened by the ending of the Space Shuttle program, especially so that the United States and NASA have no replacement. Shouldn’t we have developed a replacement before ending this program? It makes no sense to me. And now we are left with a hodge podge of competing commercial replacement alternatives, with no clear direction? It feels like a loss, not just a transition.

  2. Member
    IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

    Do you have any last words for the space shuttle program?

    Per ardua ad astra.

    • calciu says

      uh yeah , i do . uhhh wait let me think …. uh yeah like GLAD IT’S OVER ? uh yeah i think that’s it . uh yeah pretty sure .

  3. Anonymous says

    I hope this ending is not somehow symbolic of the end of American exceptionalism. It feels that way somehow. Like we’re kind of at a loss as to our intents for the future, in space and on terra firma.

    • Anonymous says

      American exceptionalism was always just nationalistic ideology. Where not the Ancient Greeks exceptional? The Romans? The Ancient Chinese? The British? The Ottomans? World Powers rise and fall. Each has it’s exceptional period. What determines our future will be our actions today, not some birthright or geological circumstance.

      • Anonymous says

        That is right. Kinross wrote a book “The Ottoman Centuries” where he does make the point that the Turks saw themselves as chosen by Allah as the Caliph and that the sultan was given an imperial mantle by Allah. This belief became particularly strong after Beyezid II, at the height of Ottoman power and long after. The belief gave the Turks a sense of their infallibility and as a chosen people given license to pursue power by any means. This pushed the empire into a position of inflexibility and decline.

        The ideal of American exceptionalism has been buzzing a whole lot of late. I wish it would shut up. The moment a people start to see themselves that way is the moment they start to decline. A whole lot of this libertarian far right “tea party” stuff is touting this crap, and it may be a symptom of America’s decline; a decline that starts with a belief in one’s own superiority.

        LC

      • Anonymous says

        That is right. Kinross wrote a book “The Ottoman Centuries” where he does make the point that the Turks saw themselves as chosen by Allah as the Caliph and that the sultan was given an imperial mantle by Allah. This belief became particularly strong after Beyezid II, at the height of Ottoman power and long after. The belief gave the Turks a sense of their infallibility and as a chosen people given license to pursue power by any means. This pushed the empire into a position of inflexibility and decline.

        The ideal of American exceptionalism has been buzzing a whole lot of late. I wish it would shut up. The moment a people start to see themselves that way is the moment they start to decline. A whole lot of this libertarian far right “tea party” stuff is touting this crap, and it may be a symptom of America’s decline; a decline that starts with a belief in one’s own superiority.

        LC

  4. Tony Scharf says

    This is the end
    Beautiful friend
    The end
    My only friend, the end
    Of our elaborate plans, the end
    Of everything that stands, the end

  5. Anonymous says

    I for one welcome our new foreign overlords lording over us from space. Oh, and screw you Washington. We’ll see who gets the last laugh after the commies go and paint the moon red and put a big Chairman Mao face on it.

    In all seriousness…I’ve have relatives who have worked for the American manned spaceflight program since the Mercury era. Ending the shuttle program without a replacement for it in-place and functioning is not only a serious threat to our ability to operate in space, its practically an insult to all those who have worked on getting Americans in space since the late 1950s.

    And so, I leave you with my last words for the space shuttle program…
    “The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle” – Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky

  6. kkt says

    Thanks for the great job to NASA and everyone who worked on the manned space program. You are the best at what you do.

    Shame, shame on our government (many individuals and both parties) for ending the shuttle program with no replacement in sight. This is the first time since I was a little boy watching the very fuzzy broadcasts of the Apollo landings that we didn’t know how our astronauts were going to get into space next. By losing momentum we may never get it back.

    • Member
      Steve_Nerlich says

      Well maybe you are right to say shame on having no replacement in sight (not that I am a country person).

      Surely this decision-making process should have been undertaken in the early 2000s, so that the decadal development timeline required would have unfolded well ahead of the last shuttle launch.

  7. To the Closeout Crew and their final message: well done, guys.

  8. Anonymous says

    “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
    – Winston Churchill

  9. Andrew says

    It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. As unprepared as we are for the future we will preval if our past is any sort of marker of our ingenuity and strength as a nation.

  10. Anonymous says

    What a great photograph! Rather symbolic of the shuttle program: A shadow is all that is left. Sad when one thinks back on the accomplishments made, and the tragedies endured during the life of the fleet. Indeed, an era has come to a close.

  11. This is bigger than just the U.S, it’s a marker of the scientific and entrepid progress of humanity. Good Luck NASA.

  12. Michael Brady says

    Next time let’s have a mission around which we design a vehicle instead of the other way around. We could have done better and fourteen astronauts died because we didn’t. Let’s save the high fives until this final crew is safely home.

  13. Michael says

    This is what you get when you let politicians promise everything and deliver nothing.
    Both parties do it.
    It doesn’t mater if it’s NASA or The Economy or Entitlements.
    Don’t let them promise and not deliver.

  14. Yacht says

    This is not the end of American space exploration, just a change to something different. A time will come, maybe soon, when a new program with new objectives will be launched.

    But, I do agree to those of you that feels that this is a teardrop moment.

  15. calciu says

    my god i really hope it’s the last time i hear anything about this shuttle programe, it’s so obsolete !!! they talk about going again to the moon and to Mars but in reality all they can do is shoot this overdimensioned plane into orbit to place satellites. it is a great achievement … like 20 years ago. move on people ! a few clouds in the sky ? delay the mission! windy ? delay the mission ! NASA for me has become, and i repeat HAS BECOME, a huge dissapointment !. They went on the moon 42 years ago. Well guess what they want to go again in 2025 . My dear god 60 years in between ??? are you kidding me ?

    be carefull NASA, you are playing with my space dreams and i won’t take that!

    ps. pls restrain yourselves from bringing into the picture the ISS. OBSOLETE OBSOLETE OBSOLETE

  16. calciu says

    my god i really hope it’s the last time i hear anything about this shuttle programe, it’s so obsolete !!! they talk about going again to the moon and to Mars but in reality all they can do is shoot this overdimensioned plane into orbit to place satellites. it is a great achievement … like 20 years ago. move on people ! a few clouds in the sky ? delay the mission! windy ? delay the mission ! NASA for me has become, and i repeat HAS BECOME, a huge dissapointment !. They went on the moon 42 years ago. Well guess what they want to go again in 2025 . My dear god 60 years in between ??? are you kidding me ?

    be carefull NASA, you are playing with my space dreams and i won’t take that!

    ps. pls restrain yourselves from bringing into the picture the ISS. OBSOLETE OBSOLETE OBSOLETE

  17. I will not wish NASA good luck. If we have to base space exploration on luck, we better keep our astronauts down here.
    They have the experience and technology to push men to even greater heights, so instead I will wish them success.

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