Although I technically work for the International Space Station (ISS) program, not the shuttle program, my work has been very much tied to the shuttle as it brings up most of the equipment we install on Extravehicular Activities (EVAs aka spacewalks), and most US EVAs are conducted by the shuttle crew while the shuttle is docked to station. So although my job is safer than most, its nature had already begun changing by the time STS-135 landed. Instead of focusing on the next flight, I'll be working on preparing ISS for maintenance and for the new commercial vehicles. I'll miss the excitement of a shuttle mission and the camaraderie I developed with the crews and the rest of the team during the training and preparation for flight. The shuttle has been America's program in space for as long as I've been alive, and its absence leaves a real gap. What saddens me most though is not the fact that the shuttle program is ending, but rather the lack of a defined plan for NASA's next program. I worry that the longer it takes to establish a new program, the more knowledge will be lost and the less the public will support our next mission.
View of the final landing taken from ISS (source)
For now, let's take a moment to acknowledge all the amazing accomplishments of the last 30 years.
Take a moment to peruse a multitude of beautiful photos from The Big Picture. Notice how many people went to great lengths to see the final launch; clearly space is still inspiring!
And finally, here's excellent video with footage from every mission.