Launch captivates watchers

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With wide-eyed amazement, 3-year-old Alexander Hand, of Aiken, watched as the final space shuttle blasted off Friday at
11: 29 a.m.

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Space exploration fan Henry Quinn holds a model of the space shuttle in the basement of his home in Evans  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Space exploration fan Henry Quinn holds a model of the space shuttle in the basement of his home in Evans

"At 3, he saw something I waited my whole life to see," said his father, Brian, 30, who witnessed history from Port Canaveral with his wife, Amy, and relatives.

"It's one of those bucket-list things," he said.

The Hand family vacation to Florida coincided with the launch. They ended up with prime viewing spots after arriving only 10 minutes before Atlantis flew into space.

"It went up right in front of me," Hand said. "You would feel it, hear it, see smoke. It was really unique."

Hand and others hope space exploration continues with new "earth - shattering" endeavors.

"Technology is getting to the point that, who knows, maybe in 30 years I will get to go into space," Hand said.

As Henry Quinn, a former educator and space enthusiast from Evans, watched the live launch from his home television and computer, he thought about the tens of thousands of contractors who will be losing jobs in the coming weeks.

"They've worked long and hard for this," he said, "and I feel sorry for them losing their jobs."

"I have a great deal of pride for what they've done and the accomplishments of the program," Quinn said.

For Evans resident Nancy Bobbitt, seeing the launch live was well worth waking up at 4 a.m. to travel to a viewing site about five miles from the launch pad .
"Being there with all those other people and hearing their reactions makes it worth it," she said.

S pectators near Bobbitt clapped, cried and cheered, "Go, baby, go."

"Awesome, amazing, unbelievable," she said.

Leslie Olig, of Augusta, and her husband and two daughters scouted out their viewing spot Thurs­day night just down the road from the RV Resort in Titus­ville where they are staying.

The family watched the live NASA feed on their iPad while eating breakfast and wondering whether the weather would cooperate with the scheduled launch.

"There was a moment this morning when the sun broke through the clouds just enough to let those guys get going," Olig said.

The crowd around her, including a man who drove overnight from Philadelphia, counted down together, she said.

"It was a patriotic crowd," Olig said. "I saw one guy wipe a tear out of his eye."

Reach Meg Mirshak at (706) 823-3228
or meg.mirshak@augustachronicle.com.

Former pilot reacts

The 30-year history of the space shuttle program includes Augusta native and former astronaut Susan Still Kilrain.

Kilrain told The Augusta Chronicle in a May 14, 2010, story that it's difficult to see the program end.

"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."

Kilrain traveled 7.8 million miles aboard the shuttle Columbia as commander of two 1997 flights. She is one of three women ever to pilot a shuttle.

Now a motivational speaker, Kilrain lives in Virginia Beach, Va., with her husband and four children.

-- From staff reports

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avidreader
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avidreader 07/08/11 - 10:50 am
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I was fortunate to see two

I was fortunate to see two launches -- one being the first night take off. I was on a pier in Charleston, SC, but saw the ball of fire perfectly. However, being among the crowds in Florida is so much more fun. It's kind of like being at a rock concert.

Rise From The Shadows
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Rise From The Shadows 07/08/11 - 12:42 pm
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We've spent more in the last

We've spent more in the last 5 years on The War on Terror than we have on NASA since it's inception in 1958. Sad...so very sad :(

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