Atlantis, Go at Throttle-Up

Atlantis

Atlantis on the pad, the night before STS-132 in May 2010

This week, we all have the opportunity to hear this, one of my favorite phrases in the English Language, one last time.

“<Shuttle>, Houston, go at throttle-up” is the command from NASA Mission Control in Houston to the ascending Space Shuttle to open the throttles of the three Main Engines back up to 104.5% of rated thrust. This event occurs as the shuttle is coming off of Max Q, about a minute-10 into the flight. I grew up listening to Lisa Malone’s voice narrating this radio exchange. Because I’m a huge nerd, I use this phrase in day-to-day life whenever I can.

STS-135, a mission that wasn’t supposed to happen at all, is currently scheduled for Friday at 11:26a Eastern Daylight.

This is the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the last one of the entire Space Shuttle program. NASA is taking a back seat to commercial endeavors in the human spaceflight department, instead focusing on heavy-lift capabilities. These heavy-lift rocket(s) will propel robotic missions to far-off places such as asteroids and will hopefully be the technological basis for long-term manned missions, as well.

I have my thoughts about this situation, but that’s not what this is about. This post is about Atlantis. This post is about a workhorse that is fading into history. This post is maybe a little bit about NASA Tweetup, as well, as Tammy and I were part of the STS-132 launch Tweetup. At the time, it was officially the last flight of Atlantis; the first of the last. That is an experience that we will never forget and will always be thankful for. It was an item off my bucket list and a lifelong dream. The launch, however, was almost just the icing on that Tweetup cake—the other activities, the people we met (both other Space Tweeps and NASA personnel), and just the experience of it all were truly what those two days were all about.

The best place to watch peoples’ lives changing (and average Joes being on NASA grounds and rubbing shoulders with others who feel the same way along with the employees that make this happen truly does change lives) in real-time this week is the #NASATweetup hashtag on Twitter. If you’re not a Twitter user (why the hell not?), you can get the feed here. It’s also a good idea to check NASA Buzzroom. It’s down at the moment, and I don’t know if it’s going to be back up for the Launch or not.

Not being all that good at writing is making it hard for me to say what I’m really wanting to say about this. Suffice to say that Friday’s launch is a big deal, both to me, and really, to all of us. I think the space program, the people who forge this trail every day, and even us ardent supporters who watch from the sidelines will have a greater impact on humanity as a whole than any of us can comprehend today.

Godspeed, Atlantis (and Roger Roll!)

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