America will return to space, of that I am sure. The space shuttle program wasn't our first that we have seen nor will it be the last, but it will always be my space program. I watched Columbia launch for the first time. The play house in the back yard was shuttle shaped (thanks to a patient father). I cheered for Sally Ride. One of the teachers in my school was a state finalist for the Teacher in Space program. I watched Challenger explode live, and I was devastated. I voted for the name of the new orbiter. I was shopping for wedding invitations when Columbia went down. As a budding young nerd the shuttle program represented everything that was awesome about science and technology and the limits of the human spirit. I got goose bumps at every launch, and since Challenger I still cringed during launch when mission control called for "go to full throttle". If there is such a thing as a shuttle fan boy, then I am it.
I love the space program and I cheer for the shuttle successor. I look to return to the moon and Mars in my lifetime. I am excited for the missions to Pluto and Io and Europa in the near future. There is a lot of good stuff coming up in space, but still, today marks the end of an era that really means a lot to me. We will never forget the men and women we lost on Columbia and Challenger. We honor the many more who flew on Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis. Thanks for the memories.