Astronauts talk about Endeavour mission

June 2, 2011 4:38:24 PM PDT
Crowds gathered at Ellington Field Thursday afternoon to welcome back the crew of space shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle returned to Florida Wednesday, making it the next to last mission in the program.

Endeavour's crew spoke individually and each called it both historic and successful. They and a large crowd at Ellington Field admit it was really an emotional time watching the orbiter land, especially since there's only one more mission to go.

After landing space shuttle Endeavour for the final time, Commander Mark Kelly says he's glad to be home.

"Endeavour performed as if it was brand new," he said.

He calls the 16-day, 6.5 million-mile mission a success. It was the shuttle's 25th and final flight. It will now be given a new mission. Endeavour is to sit in California for all to see.

"To continue to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and engineering and math, and it's going to do that for a very long time," Kelly said.

Kelly's wife, wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, did not attend on Wednesday but his daughters did. Kelly says he couldn't have completed this mission without their support or that of his crew.

Several hundred attended the welcome-home celebration.

"Very bittersweet," NASA employee Don Walker said.

Bittersweet, Walker says, because he witnessed the maiden voyage of Endeavour and knows how much life is left in the orbiter.

"I'm also looking forward to what's next," Walker said.

Also among the crowd was Gene Horton, who worked for NASA years ago. Seeing the shuttle program come to an end, he says, could be an exciting time.

"We're really just at the beginning of understanding the universe and understanding the consequences of exploring," he said.

End of shuttle program affecting fans, employees

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour is back in Houston, just one day after their spectacular nighttime landing in Florida. There's just one more flight left, and for the hundreds that work in the shuttle program, that means things will soon be changing.

It's a huge 'welcome home' for the crew of Endeavour. It's also bittersweet, as this means there is but one more shuttle mission ever.

In its 25 trips into orbit, space shuttle Endeavour logged nearly 123 million miles. It came to a stop at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday one last time.

"I teared up. I just teared up," said Pat Reho, a fan of the shuttle program.

Reho watched the landing at 1:30am. She says because she knows it is the second to last return of an orbiter -- ever.

"It's, you know, the beginning of the end. It saddens me," Reho said.

On Thursday, we found Reho among many snapping up souvenirs. Those who run one souvenir store say business is up at least 20 percent.

"People are realizing this is it!" said Toni Heath with Space City Souvenirs.

For many the return of Endeavour makes the reality that there is only one more shuttle mission left that much more real.

Also increasing is the push for jobs. Two-thousand people associated with the shuttle program who live near JSC have already lost their jobs. Two-thousand more are expected once the final mission is completed. Many have turned to the aerospace transition center for help in finding jobs. Looking, this woman says, has been a challenge.

"The Corporations are able to be more selective because there really are so many of us available," job seeker Yvonne Vogue-Rodi said.

There will actually be an aerospace job fair on June 15 Clear Falls High School.

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