Part of me had hoped the crew of space shuttle Atlantis would go rogue and refuse to return to Earth. Maybe just for a short joyride, a few extra orbits and the proud proclamation, "You'll never clip our wings!"
But the astronauts landed right on schedule. It marked a safe and successful close to NASA's 30-year shuttle program.
Space fans around the world are experiencing mixed emotions with this milestone. Some say it's a sad day for America, left without a way of lifting humans into orbit. They remark with irony that Russia has now won the space race, as U.S. astronauts will be forced to buy rides on Soyuz.
Others are posting comments that call the shuttle a waste of money and effort. They want a mission to Mars... and believe the shuttle program distracted NASA from that goal. Low earth orbit, or LEO, should be left to private companies while the government focuses on much farther distances.
No matter which of those sides you're on, the core problem is the same: there is no current successor to the shuttle. And that's what makes this "transition period" so nerve-wracking for NASA supporters.
Nothing compares to the awe of watching astronauts blast off from Earth. And that might not happen from the U.S. until 2016 according to Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations at NASA.
Gerstenmaier says, "I recognize that change is very hard. But huge growth, or huge improvement, really comes from change."
Or to put it another way, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." (Yeah, I turn to late-90's music for emotional support. Thank you, Semisonic.)
But the last word should really go to STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson. Shortly after landing, he radioed this message to Mission Control. “The space shuttle has changed the way we view the world. It’s changed the way we view the universe. One thing’s indisputable, America’s not going to stop exploring.
"Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and our ship Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us, and bringing this program to such a fitting end."