Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

One Last Ride

Few things became the shuttle program as well as its ending. After 135 flights of the snakebit space planes, the shuttle Atlantis took off last July — defying the weather as it found a lucky gap in the clouds and launched almost precisely on schedule. Its landing, after 13 days aloft, was equally textbook. It was a time for valedictories for the vehicle itself, the astronauts who flew it and particularly the 14 whose lives the shuttle program claimed. The surviving shuttles will now be museum pieces, a role in which they can do no harm — serving as reminders of ingenuity, courage and, alas, bureaucratic folly.