"Our community is going to lose the gift of hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms that we didn't really have to work very hard to fill," said Thompson. With the last launch, the town's identity will slip a little further into the past. "For me, it's probably going to be a lot of joy and a lot of sorrow all at the same time," said Socks, who knows when the tourists depart this time, all that will be left is a suddenly, shockingly empty sky.
As shuttle era ends, questions loom for shrinking astronaut corps, Washington Post
"The agency's vaunted astronaut corps, trained to withstand high acceleration, dangerous spacewalks, isolation and countless technical hiccups, now confronts a challenge with no handy checklist: the unknown."
"As the clock ticks down to this week's final space shuttle launch, there is a mounting sense of uncertainty about future U.S. dominance in space."
NASA's space shuttle program ends this month: Does anybody care?, San Jose Mercury News
"For the past 30 years, NASA's space shuttles have served as the primary vehicles for our collective out-of-this-world imagination. Though only venturing into low-Earth orbit -- a mere 250 miles to the International Space Station, not much farther than a drive from the Bay Area to Pismo Beach -- shuttles kept a solid American foot in the doorway to more. But somewhere along the way "astronaut" became just another career. And shuttle expeditions became so routine, the general public often didn't know when a craft was in orbit or not."
Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor, Washington Post
"NASA's critics say the human spaceflight program is in a shambles. They see arm-waving and paperwork rather than a carefully defined mission going forward. NASA has lots of plans, but it has no new rocket ready to launch, no specific destination selected, and no means in the near term to get American astronauts into space other than by buying a seat on one of Russia's aging Soyuz spacecraft."