Joe Delai, NASA payload manager, got emotional as he showed pictures of the 21-foot-long, shiny metal cargo carrier in Atlantis’ payload bay. That massive bay is the one thing that none of the smaller follow-on craft will have.
“This is just beautiful. … It’s not a piece of metal. It’s a way of life,” he said. “We’re just inches into what we know, and everything we do now is what I consider the foundation for human spaceflight.
“Yeah, it’s emotional, but it’s also part of history. I think that’s what you’re seeing from a lot of folks down here.”
Also aboard Atlantis: multiple sets of patches and pins representing all 135 shuttle missions, as well as thousands of shuttle bookmarks for children. The patches and pins will be presented to schools following the flight, Mr. Delai said.
The 12-day voyage by Atlantis should culminate with a touchdown back at Kennedy on July 20, the 42nd anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon.
“There’s an old saying that says it’s better to travel well than to arrive,” Mr. Spaulding said. “And I’d have to say after the last 30 years, certainly our program and these shuttles, throughout all of their missions, have traveled very well. And after 135’s landing, I think we can say at that point that we’ve arrived.”
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