Atlantis space shuttle launches a thousand bittersweet goodbyes


The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 8, 2011, in Cape Canaveral. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (Dave Martin/AP)

Still, when the Atlantis lifted off for the 135th and final space shuttle launch for NASA, the throat choked up, the eyes itched with tears about to come.

“Does anyone have tissues? Cause that was beautiful,” wrote Emil Caillaux.

“Wow. Amazing launch. I'm shaking a little. Silent at first, the rumble grew to a chest-shaking roar,” The Post’s Brian Vastag wrote.

From an airplane, a passenger caught the launch on his smartphone (warning, some PG-13 language if you follow the link). Other passengers broke out into spontaneous applause and cheers as the shuttle passed the wing of the plane.

“When we saw the bright glare of the shuttle, and the chants of U.S.A., U.S.A. started going up, it was hard not to cry, frankly,” CNN's Carol Costello said.

For the people of NASA, it was a bittersweet day indeed. Thousands are now out of a job as the shuttle program ends. The closeout crew of Atlantis silently said goodbye from the launchpad before the flight:

Last month, NASA engineer Dan Kennan put together a musical tribute to the program. Philip McLeran, who plays the lead guitar, writes: “Dan spent hundreds of hours on this, getting permission from NASA and USA legal departments to post this and go public with it... The people in this video are the people that help make the incredible orbiters fly. Sadly Melissa, most all of them are now already laid off.”

Get the tissues ready, and thank you for the amazing memories:

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