One of my most vivid memories from elementary school was gathering as a class (or two or four) around the small cart TV and watching the space shuttle launches. I remember cheering and clapping as the shuttles would spin off into the blue and walking away from the TV talking with my friends how cool it would be if we were astronauts. I remember the pit in my stomach and crying when Challenger exploded.
Today I was lucky enough to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch into space for the final shuttle mission. I still felt just like the elementary school kid who was sitting on the classroom floor 25-30 years ago: butterflies in my stomach hoping all would go well and awe... what it must be like to launch into space.
I know there is a great debate going on about the fact that our shuttle program is ending and we have nothing prepared to immediately replace that. But I think the shuttle commander said it best when he said that this was not the end but rather the closing of a chapter as we get ready to move on to the next. It's just a shame we have to wait for a whole new book.