Space shuttle blasts off from Cape Canaveral for the last time
We have lift-off ... at last
After fears over weather delays were put to rest, the last mission of the space shuttle programme was launched from Cape Canaveral this afternoon.
One million Americans descended on the east coast of Florida to bid farewell to the space shuttle era, as astronauts expressed anxiety about their country’s future role.
At 4.26pm Atlantis blasted off from the Kennedy Centre on the 135th and final mission of a 30-year programme marked by triumph but touched by tragedy.
While Barack Obama has promised a new era of missions to asteroids and Mars, many fear the US may now cede control to the East and perhaps give up sending people into space altogether.
For the next four years at least, American astronauts must hitch a ride on a Russian Soyuz craft at £30 million a place to get to the International Space Station.
“I’m sad about it,” Col Karol Bobko, 73, commander of Atlantis’s first mission in 1985, told The Daily Telegraph. “We just don’t have the resources to meet our ambitions.” “You never want to leave yourself dependent on another country, especially after 40 years of leading the world,” said Jose Hernandez, 48, who flew on Discovery in 2009.
Mr Obama is handing development of conventional space travel to the commercial sector, which is due to take astronauts and wealthy civilians into orbit by 2015.