Planetarium, Better Than Being There For Some

As hundreds of thousands of spectators jammed Cape Canaveral and surrounding towns in Florida for the final launch of the shuttle program, about 50-people saw history in the making at Burke Baker Planetarium here in Houston. Pat Hernandez has more.

The theater inside Burke Baker Planetarium was not packed, but that didn’t keep the excitement from growing to a fever pitch leading up to the launch of space shuttle Atlantis.

“Zero…and lift-off! (applause).”

Teacher Kayla Moody’s kids are enrolled in one of  the Museum of Natural Science summer camps. She says watching the launch was a special treat for them.

“I think all of the kids had a positive reaction, and the fact that it’s the last space shuttle launching for quite a while. I think that it’s kind of sad and I don’t know if they exactly realize that it’s the last one, but I think that it’s great that they had the experience of seeing it.”

Anna Ortiz says she appreciated being witness to the completion of a chapter of a neverending journey.

“I thought it was really great to see it in the planetarium. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so it’s great!”

PH: “Can you imagine that this is the end of the shuttle program?”

Ortiz: “No, it’s sad, especially being from Houston, and I never got to see one. Maybe they’ll bring it back in my lifetime, so we’ll get to see it again, hopefully.”

Amy Chasson says she was glad to see the final shuttle lift-off on the giant screen.

“This is like the next best thing, I think. It was so interesting to see a panoramic view of it though, because the planetarium is domed, and so it just gave you a real sense of being there. But it was also very poignant, since it’s the last time that its going up. And when the commentator said this is the last time it’s going transonic, I just kind of got choked up. So how proud for us to be in Houston. I mean, it’s just really a great hometown thing for us to be able to do that.”

Like a lot of other Houstonians, Chasson says she’s anxious to see what will be next for America’s space program:

“Very much so actually. Because there have been so many interesting discoveries made, not because of the solar system, but because of medical discoveries on things that being outside of the earth’s orbit can do to say, bones and muscles and things. So even from a medical perspective, it’s really important that we keep that up. But yeah, I wonder what’s gonna happen now.” 

After Atlantis returns from its mission, private rocket companies will take over the job of hauling supplies and astronauts to the space station.    

launch of Atlantis
Atlantis’ Final Flight.

Space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it lifts off from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A at 11:29 a.m. EDT. The launch of Atlantis on the STS-135 mission, is the final flight of the Shuttle Program.

Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls July 8, 2011.

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