Here’s what other astronauts
are saying about the end of the shuttle program:

“My heart and my soul are really part of the space shuttle program, so naturally it’s a bittersweet feeling to see it come to an end. I hate to see us move away from a gliding landing on a runway, because we were able to bring back so much [cargo] with that kind of landing. Some things were better with [the shuttle] and some things will be better without it, but I hate to see it come to an end.”

— Robert “Hoot” Gibson, who flew on five shuttle missions between 1984 and 1995

“Everyone’s agreed we need to get out of low-Earth orbit and the next step is to go forward, and that’s a good thing.”

— Sandy Magnus, who will serve as a mission specialist on the final shuttle flight, from an interview on NASA.gov

“Today, we are very, very mature space operators. We’ve learned how to do science, retrieve satellites, put the space station together. Endless things. But the shuttle didn’t turn out the way we planned. It didn’t fly 60 times a year. It wasn’t 10 million dollars a flight. However, you’ve got to look at where we were in ’74 after Skylab and where we are today: The shuttle did that. As difficult as it was, I consider it a major triumph.”

— Story Musgrave, who made six spaceflights during 30 years with NASA

“Like the F-14 I flew in the Navy, I am sad to see both it and the shuttle retired. They were both great vehicles who did the mission well — but eventually it is time to move on. The shuttle would never be able to take us back to the moon or on to Mars, and our goal for exploration is to continue moving forward.”

— Scott “Scooter” Altman, a veteran of four spaceflights who retired from NASA in 2010

“We will miss the shuttle’s ample lifting power and, even more, its flexibility and versatility. . . . Even its shortcomings will help us build safer and more efficient vehicles.”

— Thomas D. Jones, whose last of four missions was in 2001, as told to Aerospace America

Rachel Saslow