HOUSTON When they are the last, each second is one to savor, to treasure, to remember.

On Friday, it was especially true for the last 31 seconds before the final space shuttle launch.

Wow they only have a three-minute launch window to hit the stations orbit. Oh my goodness, are they going to make it today or not? wondered Operations Manager Bobby Vincent as he watched the clock count down on the big screen in NASA s Building 9.

Even with only a 30 percent chance of weather favorable to launch, and with a last-second glitch, NASA Manager Larry Chase was always confident.

We are gonna make it. Never a doubt. Never a doubt that we are gonna make it. Because that is what we do, said Chase.

Bobby Vincent is the operations manager of Building 9, the room where the astronauts train..

For him the last seconds were perfect for sharing with his 3-year old son, Devin, who came to work his dad on the historic day.

I like to see the shock wave of the rocket exhaust, said Vincent. I think my son got a kick out of it. It might be the last one we see except on replays until the next rocket comes.

NASA employee Liz Bains has seen all the shuttle launches. Shejoined NASA just before STS-1.

It is history. My personal history, she said.

Bains will retire with the shuttle, but her worry with the shuttle s end is history repeating.

After the Apollo program, essentially the nation threw away a lot of expertise, she said. We let a lot of countries catch up.

The cheers drowned out worry in NASA s packed Teague Auditorium, but they were more cautious across the complex in the massive space where the astronauts train.

The cheers there were reserved.

We have got to get these people back home safely. It s not just enough to go, you have to get back. said Chase.

NASA has always been about horizons. Now we are trying to find the next horizon. But it will always be a place where dreams are made, where preparation meets opportunity and that breeds success, he added.

Glenn Johnson is a trainer for the International Space Station.

The Shuttle was built to build the ISS and it s done it. I know that we are all sad because it is going away but I wish everybody would jump up and down and say we did everything we said we were going to do. I am really glad to see that we got to accomplish all of our missions.

Now, he has 12 days to savor.

I really love the shuttle. It is time to move on. I hope that we get something else to move into. It s been a very exciting run, Johnson said.

Down to the last second.

Read or Share this story: