Dee Duren, NewsOn6.com
CAPE KENNEDY, Florida -- A former Oklahoma journalist who has covered the space program since Apollo 13 witnessed the end of the Space Shuttle program from "hallowed ground" Friday morning.
Pete Crow, owner of the Grove Sun and Delaware County Journal from 1969 to 2007, was in fact still at Cape Kennedy late Friday afternoon, trapped at the press site by the million people who came out to watch the shuttle's last launch.
He was looking forward to some sleep and a shower but clearly wouldn't have missed a minute of the experience.
"We came over at about midnight; there were about a million people outside on the shores today, about 3,000 members of the press," Crow said.
With the weather worsening in Florida over the last few days, he was not expecting the launch to be a go.
"It never occurred to me that they were going to get it off today," he said. "Low and behold, they launched the doggone thing – a pleasant surprise."
Crow was one of the chosen few – one of 40 viewers – who were able to view the final launch from the top of the Vehicle Assembly Building, "hallowed ground for NASA," he said.
He blogs about his experiences online at "PeteCrow/Nasa: from Apollo to the end of the Space Shuttle Program" He witnessed the last time an Apollo mission went to the moon then was present for the STS-135 final shuttle mission.
"One of the great things about owning your own newspaper is, you get to go cover what you want to cover," he said. "I love the space program, so I began covering that way, way back.
"I wanted to see the last moon launch in '72, and I absolutely got hooked."
After the launch of Atlantis, crews were already breaking down the shuttle pad before Crow could manage to leave the press site.
"The program's over, and all this wonderful, magic equipment they've got is being smashed up, thrown away," he said. "It kind of breaks my heart."
But Crow is optimistic about the reasons for the space program to move on – and up - to deep space.
"The shuttle program is only 235 miles up, and they know all they need to know about 235 miles up," he said. "What we don't know is the magic on the moon and the magic on Mars.
"We're backing away from the manned program, it's true, but we're not backing away from the really important science."
Crow said that in theory, at least, Obama may have the right idea about privatizing aspects of the space program.
"They want to find ways to do space exploration and travel more cheaply and efficiently," he said. Crow is hopeful that the government's plan to turn some of the reins over to private industry can accomplish just that.
In the meantime, he's headed to Houston where he will witness the tear down of Mission Control.
Once he can make his way to the airport, that is.