End of shuttle era disappoints Augusta astronaut

Augusta native twice took charge of shuttle missions

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Augusta native and former astronaut Susan Still Kilrain says it's difficult to see America's space shuttle program end this year after three eventful decades.

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Susan Still Kilrain, seen before a launch in 1997, said it's important that manned space flights continue.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Susan Still Kilrain, seen before a launch in 1997, said it's important that manned space flights continue.

"It's what made space travel a common occurrence," said Still, who traveled 7.8 million miles aboard Columbia as commander of two 1997 shuttle flights.

Today's launch of the Atlantis will be its last, and final missions of NASA's other shuttles -- Discovery and Endeavor -- are planned later this year.

"It's the only reusable space vehicle -- ever -- and it may end up being the only one ever," she said. "We could land it on a runway and just fly it again."

As the shuttle program -- begun in 1981 -- winds to a close, it is important that our nation find a way to continue manned flight, Kilrain said.

"At this point, we don't know where the manned space program for our country is going from here because that hasn't been decided," she said. "But I think it would be a shame -- and a disappointment -- if we didn't find a way to continue our manned program."

NASA has said it is retiring its shuttles to focus on new technologies and rockets that could one day get astronauts to asteroids -- and perhaps to Mars.

However, there are no formal plans in place as to how the program will proceed in the post-shuttle era.

"We will still have representation on the international space station," she said. "But the astronauts and everyone interested in space are waiting to see what will happen next."

Kilrain, who retired from the Astronaut Office in 2002 and from the Navy in 2005, is one of only three women to pilot a shuttle. She hopes future space programs will create new opportunities for future generations, too.

"We need to have a program," she said. "Other countries are certainly going to, and China is ramping up its own program. We're not in a space race like we were in the '60s, but we'll have no say in the matter if we have no program at all."

Kilrain, a motivational speaker, now lives in Virginia with her husband and four children.

Learn more

Visit Susan Kilrain's Web site at susankilrain.com.

Today's launch

With good weather expected today in Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA was optimistic as it headed toward the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its final voyage.

Atlantis is set to blast off at 2:20 p.m. Watch a live Web cast of the launch on NASA TV at nasa.gov/ntv.

The shuttle will deliver a Russian compartment to the International Space Station. The chamber is filled with more than 3,000 pounds of U.S. supplies. It will be the first -- and last -- time a shuttle carries a Russian module to the orbiting lab. Only two shuttle flights remain, set for September and November.

-- Associated Press

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speeding
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speeding 05/14/10 - 08:41 am
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This fool of a president sure

This fool of a president sure brought us a lot of hope. Everybody hope he goes away.

AugustaFella
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AugustaFella 05/14/10 - 10:44 am
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Plans to end the shuttle

Plans to end the shuttle program in mid-2010 were set four years ago following the Columbia accident -- during the presidency of G.W. Bush.

Onthebeach
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Onthebeach 05/14/10 - 11:54 am
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Like I tell my neighbors and

Like I tell my neighbors and friends who voted for the president and work at the Space Center with NASA and its Contractors......You wanted "Change" and now you are getting it, so don't tell me about how bad it is that you will be laid off soon! (I'll will be watching today from the beach along with many others who want to witness the final flight of Atlantis!)

PhiloPublius
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PhiloPublius 05/14/10 - 12:13 pm
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I get a new car every 5 or 6

I get a new car every 5 or 6 years, I surely wouldn't want to blast into space aboard a ship designed over 30 years ago. This was a long needed change.

speeding
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speeding 05/14/10 - 12:19 pm
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When all else fails, when

When all else fails, when there are no more outs, watch the stock market fall and blame G.W. Bush and praise the rat that eat the cheese

iakovos
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iakovos 05/14/10 - 09:54 pm
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Come on speeding stop hating

Come on speeding stop hating you know the current president had nothing to do with this, get a life and help build something positive. People talk about jobs and so forth none of that is promise to you in the Constitution this is a republic, go out and make it happen!!. REMEBER Plymouth Rock they almost starve to death talking like you speeding. Help Yourself!!

uptheseventhplanet
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uptheseventhplanet 05/15/10 - 12:55 pm
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"People talk about jobs and

"People talk about jobs and so forth none of that is promise to you in the Constitution this is a republic, go out and make it happen!"

I'm going to look again and see where the Constitution promises health care for all. So far the closest I have found is in the Preamble where is stated that the purpose of the Constitution is to "...promote the general welfare and provide for the common defence..." (Spelling is from the document as written; the words "promote" and "provide" have entirely different meanings to me.)

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