Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) released the following statement which was entered into the Congressional Record to honor the men and women of America's Space Shuttle Program:
"Today is a bittersweet day for Florida's Space Coast, for the space program, and for the nation. As Atlantis touched down at 5:57 AM today, July 21, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center, another era of exploration closed. Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral have been the center of America's human space flight program since its inception. Nearly every manned mission has launched from Florida's Space Coast. The Shuttle program is no different. Every Shuttle mission has been processed, assembled, and launched by the talented and dedicated men and women at Kennedy Space Center.
"Just as Kennedy Space Center has been an important part of the Shuttle Program, the Shuttle Program has been an essential part of Florida's identity, so much so that it was featured on our state's quarter. From the rumble of the Shuttle lifting off, to the sonic boom felt as the Shuttle traverses Florida on its way to land at Kennedy after another accomplished mission, the Shuttle is a part of Central Florida's culture.
"Space Coast residents have cheered the successes the Shuttle Program has seen in its thirty years of service to our nation: ferrying astronauts, modules, components, and experiments to the International Space Station; launching and repairing numerous satellites including the Hubble; launching three interplanetary probes; and advancing scientific experimentation including microgravity research. After all, the citizens of the Space Coast working at Kennedy Space Center helped make these successes possible.
"Our community grieved deeply when, as President Ronald Reagan said, the Challenger astronauts "slipped the surly bonds of this Earth," to "touch the face of God," on January 28, 1986, and when the Shuttle Columbia failed to make it home on February 1, 2003. The entire nation wept for the loss of these heroes, but the Space Coast mourned these brave men and women as family.
"As we welcome Atlantis home for the last time, I would especially like to applaud all of our Shuttle workers from United Space Alliance and other contractors who did the work necessary to keep the Shuttles flying for 30 great years. It is their hard work and dedication that have made these missions possible. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one of them on this historic, but bittersweet day."