Science & Environment

US shuttle farewells: Your stories

The Atlantis crew - Rex Walheim, Sandy Magnus, Doug Hurley, and Chris Ferguson.

The US space shuttle, Atlantis has lifted off marking the end of the nation's 30-year shuttle programme.

Four astronauts were on board the shuttle when it left Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US at 1129 local time (1529 GMT; 1629 BST) on Friday.

Space bloggers, who joined crowds to watch the historic event share their experiences.

Christy Roberts, Cape Blogger, Maryland

We arrived last night and it was pouring of rain, but the forecast called for a clearing on launch morning so I was optimistic. We awoke to a few glimpses of sunshine peeking through a thin layer of overcast skies.

We headed over to Jetty Park where the masses were gathering. It was a festival atmosphere with tripods set up all over and spectators vying for the prime spots on the pier and jetty rocks.

We couldn't hear the broadcast of the Nasa launch director from where we were, but I checked the Nasa website and Facebook page for updates. As launch time approached, we all turned our eyes to the northern horizon. As the seconds past launch time ticked away, nothing happened. The crowd waited in relative silence with the same question in all our minds - where's the shuttle?

We've seen a lot of things go wrong in the final seconds before lift-off over the years, and it's almost always a show stopper with a short launch window. Just as we started to despair, we heard shouts from the folks tuned into the launch count, 5-4-3-2-1! Sure enough, there she came like the grandest bottle rocket you ever saw glowing brighter than the sun in the distance. The crowd erupted in cheers as Atlantis shot toward the heavens.

The booming, crackling sound followed shortly after - it was just as impressive as the view. Against all weather odds, the skies had cooperated for this final launch of the pride of the American space programme.

As we hopped back on our bikes and pedalled away, the elation of the launch suddenly gave way to a crushing sadness. The finality of it hit me full in the gut as we left the final launch behind. I'm so pleased my family were able to witness it, but utterly uncertain about what and when the next big thing will be

Hester Mallonee, Liberty, Equality and Geology blog, Boise

I was at Cape Canaveral and part of the Nasa "Tweetup". The launch was amazing, just incredible. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It was just so much bigger and brighter and louder than I had anticipated.

I watched some of the launch with binoculars but then put them down as I wanted to experience it naturally.

When there was a delay at the 30-second mark, it was just so frustrating. I figured that if the whole thing would be stopped I'd have to miss it and I didn't want to miss out on such a momentous event. At the time of the delay we didn't really know what was going on and couldn't hear what the announcer was saying.

I'm based out of Boise, but for the summer am living on a national monument, near a small town without much internet and so getting our postal mail can take a couple of weeks, so to be part of this event was just amazing.

As we didn't know the exact time the launch I didn't book train tickets until the last minute but I got in touch with others who were coming via Twitter and have ended up in a fantastic house share here.

Being here is just surreal - it's an incredible triumph of science and technology. It is also a very American kind of thing to do - my grandparents were in the air force and the military and so my involvement makes me feel very patriotic.

Anna Leahy and Doug Dechow, Lofty Ambitions, California

When the entire crowd started counting down from 10 seconds, you physically felt that everyone simultaneously realised that the shuttle was really going to launch.

From that point on, the event became a visceral and emotional experience. The smoke from the main engines billowed out first.

Then came the sound, the increasingly bright blaze of light, and the brief flash of heat as the shuttle struggled to clear the launch tower, all reinforced the fact that you were seeing something spectacular.

Very quickly, people were gasping and shaking from the external force and the internal emotion. Because we were born into Apollo (the first manned Moon landing) which occurred when we were very young, and came into adulthood with the space shuttle, we definitely feel as if this mission marks an end.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites