The misadventures of Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103
Wednesday September 3rd 2014

“It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop.” – Commander Mark Kelly

Those were the words spoken by Commander Mark Kelly just before he lifted off on Endeavour’s final mission.  It was a spectacular launch and a spectacular honest statement by Commander Kelly.  Many people took his statement as a plea for our nation’s Human Space Flight Program and a  “slap” at NASA for giving up on our nation after 50 years.  Obviously, someone at NASA did not like it.  So, they had him “clarify” his statement during an interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio after he arrived at the International Space Station and had him “shill” for NASA and the New Space Boys.

“NASA is leading the way and will continue to do so,” said Kelly. “We

are the lead partner on the International Space Station and when

humans go back to the moon and on to Mars, I’m sure it’s going to be

the United States and NASA that’s leading that as well. As we move

into more commercialization of the launch vehicles and getting access

to orbit, that’s still NASA that’s leading that project and hopefully

buying those services and this is something I think that in the long

run could mean the expansion of humans accessing space. So we’re

pretty excited about the future for NASA.”

Poor guy, as with all astronauts, as long as they are in the employ of NASA they cannot speak their minds.  I sincerely hope more astronauts will speak out during the last mission.  I mean, what is NASA going to do?  Tell them they can’t fly anymore?  Oh wait, they won’t be able to since the shuttles will be gone and our nation has no vehicle or ship to fly our astronauts.  All I can say about his pre-launch speech is, “Well said Commander Kelly!”

Anyway, the launch went well and Space Shuttle Endeavour is safely at the ISS.  Below is a couple unique pictures that you might enjoy.

Endeavour's last launch as seen from a balloon at 64,000 feet launched by some young students. Credit QuestforStars.com
Endeavour approaching the ISS. Credit Astronaut Ron Garan

This is Endeavour’s 25th and last mission.  Remember, each Space Shuttle was designed for 100 flights.  Endeavour’s life is being cut short 75 flights and will be regulated to a Los Angeles museum.

The next day after Endeavour’s launch, Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building for the final time in preparation for the last launch of the Space Shuttle Program scheduled for July.

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling over to the VAB for the final time. Credit Mark Stanley

Many of the KSC employees that remain (another 2,000 got notice that same week they were to be laid off in July.) gathered to watch this sad and historic occasion.  A tradition before a shuttle launch is to have a large banner signed by all the KSC employees for that mission.  They are normally hung in the VAB after the mission or stored away for a future display at a museum.

Atlantis last mission banner. Credit Spaceref.com

I’ve signed every mission banner while at KSC and had the good fortune of a friend signing my name to this last mission banner.  Another friend saw it and took a picture of it for me.  My name, “Rocketman Greg C.” is located near the right side of the NASA meatball on the left side of the banner.

Rocketman Greg C signature on the Space Shuttle Program's last mission banner. Photo Credit Dan C.

It’s nice to know I’ll get to be a small part of this last launch.  Godspeed to Endeavour and Atlantis.  Godspeed and well done to the KSC workers, especially the former and current employees of United Space Alliance.  As Wayne Hale, the former director of the Space Shuttle Program, once said, “These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

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