KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Ten years after the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, three of her final astronaut crewmembers looked back and looked forward Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim talked about the shuttle program’s legacy and what’s next for American spaceflight to hundreds of guests inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Ferguson told reporters. “We’re inspiring the next generation of people to do really cool things.”
The space shuttle’s legacy remains America’s longest-running human spaceflight program.
When the fleet stopped flying, Space Coast communities dependent on the program economically struggled.
Now, a decade later, America’s new spaceflight program is once again bringing the boom.
“There is so much going on,” Magnus said in reference to SpaceX, Boeing and NASA’s Artemis program. “And that’s going to expand again – the numbers of people that can go into space, the types of people that can go into space.”
Atlantis flew 33 missions in 25 years and following its retirement, the shuttle was put on display at the visitor complex.
“A lot of you have probably gone through a couple times and when they raise that final curtain, I’ve done it a half-dozen times, it still gives me chills,” Ferguson said of the experience.
Whether you’re a first-time guest or you just want to see Atlantis again, you now have more opportunities to do so because the visitor complex extended its hours last month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
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