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Crowds Make a Big Showing at Jetty Park for Final Liftoff

Atlantis Lifts Off on its Final Mission
Atlantis Lifts Off on its Final Mission

July 8, 2011| Huge crowds gathered at Cape Canaveral's Jetty Park to watch the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Before the sun was even up, the park was crowded with well wishers. 90.7s Mark Simpson was there and filed this report.

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It was still dark when best friends Susan Hilyer and Louise Hope arrived at Jetty Park.  They made a spur of the moment decision to come to Florida from Picken South Carolina to watch the last shuttle flight.  Susan is a Science teacher and long-time fan of the space program, "I was 12 when they landed on the moon so it’s just always been part of the whole thing. I have all the space movies keep up with all of it".

She had seen one shuttle launch before today’s, but it was a new experience for her friend Louise Hope, "I have never seen a launch so I’ve made a special effort cause I didn’t want to miss out on this, it’s such a piece of Americana, I can’t believe I’m here."

They joined a crowd of people who came from Miami, Tampa, Cocoa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Canada.

Nancy George a Recent graduate from  North Eastern State University in Oaklahoma says seeing a Shuttle launch was on her bucket list.  Her elementary school in Tulsa, Oklahoma was named for astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who died in the Challenger accident in 1986.   

The School’s mascot was the Shuttle Challenger, "all our shirts had the Challenger on it.  We had a simulator that each class got to go into and enjoy learning how a space shuttle would work if we were to be an astronaut."

 

As the crowd waited for liftoff, there was constant speculation about whether mission managers would give shuttle the go for launch. 

At the end of the park on a pier stretching along side a jetty, the crowd swelled and listened on small radios to hear what was happening with the launch …..

and then came the magic words the crowd had been waiting for…3-2-1!

A streak of fire rose into the sky for about a minute before Atlantis began darting through the clouds.

It took a couple of minutes before the sound reached Jetty Park.

Fullsail University teacher Rebecca Carroll has seen launches before but she says today’s experience was still special, "I thought it was really cool how you could hear the sound after the plume goes through the clouds and then you hear this wave of sound then you hear this wave of vibration and like this deep rumbling and this was totally cool."

Susan Hilyer's best friend Louise Jones was waiting for the important throttle up call during the liftoff, "I remember exactly where I was standing when challenger blew up back in 86.  It was right after they said go with throttle up and I always kind of hold my breath and watch but I get all emotional too because its incredible what our country does iwht the space race.  I mean they’re now traveling 15-thousand miles an hour around the earth just like that.  It’s amazing."

For Jones, it makes the long trip from South Carolina worthwhile. 

 

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