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Interns Witness Atlantis' Final Launch


Interns Witness Atlantis' Final Launch


On July 8, space shuttle Atlantis launched into Earth's orbit, marking the final liftoff of the 30-year space shuttle program.

Among those watching the historic event live at Cape Canaveral, Fla., was Francisco Pineda, an engineering graduate student from The University of Texas at El Paso.

Pineda said he felt the wave of heat from the launch pad as the shuttle majestically cut its path toward the heavens.

"It's such an amazing and awe-inspiring thing to see in person," he said. "It's really something else to watch this giant piece of machinery being lifted so effortlessly and with pure brute force."

As Pineda experienced the launch in person, another four interns from UTEP's Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) watched it unfold from NASA's Mission Control in the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The shuttle landed safely July 21 in Florida.

While the spectacle was exhilarating for the interns, they could see it was emotional for many of the NASA employees, including some who said they had watched manned space launches as far back as Project Mercury some 50 years ago.

"It was sad, knowing that this would be the last time any of us would see the shuttle launch into orbit," said Arturo Acosta-Zamora, one of UTEP's Houston interns. "Many of us watching either grew up with the shuttle, or had worked with it for a very long time."

Nate Robinson, associate director for the cSETR, said that despite suspension of manned space flight, rocket technology will continue to thrive as new and exciting discoveries are made every day.

"Space exploration, whether manned or not, is heavily dependent on the efficiency of rockets," he said. "Our students are at the forefront and really taking us to the edge of this technology."

For Pineda, Americans will return to space because it is our nature to explore.

"There's no question in my mind as to whether or not we'll go up again – we will," he said.

The University also sent six cSETR interns to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Originally posted on Announcements @ UTEP.

For more information contact Joe Velarde, at (915) 747-5034 or


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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