Friday morning NASA launched is last shuttle after more than 30 years. Northern Utah’s ATK Space Shuttle Program is saying goodbye to one era, and preparing to enter into a new one. Director of ATK’s Space Shuttle Program, Harry Reed, said ATK’s relationship with NASA is one that will continue on into the future.”We’ve had a great partnership with NASA and have done a lot to provide safe access to space for America for the last 30 years,” he said.Despite the end of manned spaceflight, Reed, who has been with the company since 1983, said he is confident that ATK will continue to be an important asset for NASA in the years to come. He said even though a small layoff is planned, new contracts and projects are in place.”In the short term we are going to have less people involved with NASA’s effort in northern Utah for ATK and we’re hopeful that over the long term we’ll be able to grow back into a vital program in the future,” Reed said.ATK has had a large presence in northern Utah, providing high quality jobs, and Reed said hopefully they have inspired the youth in the valley to pursue engineering and science in their studies.Mary-Ann Muffoletto, with USU’s College of Science, said it is a little sad and nostalgic to see the shuttle program come to the end.She said the university has been working on a small satellite, the size of a Rubix Cube, and the challenge now will be finding a way to get it launched into space. Previously, NASA has allowed experiments from universities to “hitch a ride” in the cargo bay of a shuttle. The “Get Away Special” (GAS) is a program that has been around since 1976 and USU flew the very first GAS payload on the space shuttle Columbia in 1982.Ryan Martineau, USU GAS Team student leader, said with the end of the shuttle program it will be much harder for them to carry out their experiments.”It won’t be impossible, it will just be a lot more trouble and pain to get something into space,” he said. “It doesn’t put it to a grinding halt, but it makes things a lot harder.”USU has had 11 GAS “payloads” on 10 shuttle flights with more than 30 experiments and have been on every space shuttle except for Atlantis. Martineau said his team will continue to do research and work hard to find ways to get their experiments into space.With the 30 year era ending, ATK’s unknown involvement with NASA it will effect people’s lives, and some employees will be retiring after this last launch.”There is a gentleman I work with that was there for the first space shuttle launch and he has been hanging around long enough to be able to see the last one, and he plans on retiring in the near future along with some others and they will be going out with their heads held high,” Reed said.There has been talk of the last space shuttle launch since 2004 but Reed said that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to have it be over.”Most of us have mixed feelings,” he said, “it is nice to have the honor to work on something that impacts the world. We are sad to see it ending, three decades of flying space shuttles is a long time.”Reed said he was hopeful they would “find a hole in the sky” and were able to launch. Space Shuttle Atlantis and its four astronauts blasted off practically on schedule at 11:29 a.m. EST, pierced a shroud of clouds and settled flawlessly into orbit in front of a crowd estimated at close to 1 million, the size of the throng that watched Apollo 11 shoot the moon in 1969.It was the 135th shuttle flight since the inaugural mission in 1981.
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