Spinnaker heads to NASA

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Like a bat out of hell, spaceship Atlantis rocketed and disappeared into the Earth’s atmosphere July 8, and with it went NASA’s 30-year, manned spacecraft program.

Atlantis and its four astronauts dodged bad weather and thrilled hundreds of thousands of spectators at Kennedy Space Center as it launched gracefully into the gray skies of the Sunshine State, rousing emotions on a level not seen since the Apollo moon landing.

After days of rain and gloomy skies, Atlantis lifted off at 11:29 a.m. – a 2½-minute delay from its originally scheduled take-off – racking the nerves of many onlookers. It marked the 135th shuttle launch to date.
The crew’s 12-day mission is to deliver a crucial payload of supplies to the International Space Station and return with as much refuse as possible. Atlantis is scheduled to return home July 20.

Prior to the launch, Commander Christopher Ferguson expressed endearing sentiment to all those who contributed to the shuttle program over the years.
“The shuttle is always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” he said. “We’re not ending the journey today … we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”