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As a little white dot passed over the horizon, the crowd of spectators gathered at Kennedy Space Center to welcome the shuttle home.
Together with its crew members known as the final four : Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus, and Rex Walheim, Atlantis’ mission was virtually flawless, with the crew delivering five-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.
“You know, the space station’s changed the way we view our world, and it’s changed the way we view our universe. A lot of emotion today, but one thing’s indisputable: America’s not gonna stop exploring,” Ferguson said, as the shuttle landed.
It was a bittersweet day for shuttle astronauts, crews and technicians. Today, United Space Alliance, one of the space program’s largest employers, will lay off about 2,000 employees.
“For some, Friday is their last day, and they performed flawlessly right up to the end,” Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said. “I have extreme pride in every one of them.”