"Atlantis" and the crew of four are ready to make history minutes from now with the last liftoff of a U.S. space shuttle.
COOPER: Cady, for you, what this day like? I mean, you have spent an awful lot of time in space to know that this is the final flight?
CADY COLEMAN, ASTRONAUT: Well, every shuttle launch, every launch of a rocket that's got people on board. It's a big deal for people to leave the planet. So just in that, it is a big day for the launch of the space shuttle.
COOPER: And it seems so calm. The control room at CNN, right before the broadcast on CNN, is a nightmare. People are screaming and yelling. It seems very orderly
COLEMAN: It is like having a gorilla on the chest. Which I don't know really know what that feels like, but it is really just sort of smooshed in this area.
COOPER: I've had a gorilla charge me, and it's not pleasant. This sounds a little more interesting and pleasant.
COOPER: From the pictures I have seen, it looks like a nightmare to me. I mean, it looks like -- small and miserable. But you say it is amazing.
COLEMAN: You know, we're keeping it -- it is a carefully held secret. But really, the reality is that it is amazing.
COOPER: Yes, we actually left at 6:00 a.m. from the inn where we were staying, which is only five or six miles from here, because the traffic, and we knew the traffic would be thick and it was thick. It took us quite a while to get here. A lot of excitement here and people selling T-shirts on the side of the road. I am hoping that they are discounted on the way back. So, I'm going to wait. I think I'm very clever for doing that.
A Tense No Go Moment ~
COOPER: So, mission control saying no go?
And welcome back to the final mission of the space shuttle. Getting word that mission control is no-go. Again, this is going back and forth. We got a green that weather was fine, but at this point, mission control is saying no-go, but we will continue to follow this. The launch is scheduled for 11:26.
Hour Two ~
Atlantis and its crew of four are ready to make history minutes from now with the last liftoff of the U.S. space shuttle.
COOPER: 11:26, the time it is supposed to launch. Let's hope it does. What a moment that will be, the last time you will ever see the space shuttle launching from the United States anywhere. The last time the space shuttle will launch. The crew, the four, "The Final Four" they call themselves, is ready to go.
COOPER: And you think about all the people who have flown on board. There's 355 people that have flown 852 times, on 135 missions, going back since 1981. Sixteen countries, as you said, have been represented with astronauts and people on board this, 14 people, of course, have lost their lives in the two disasters. And, of course, on this day, we remember them all.
T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 -- all three engines up and burning -- 2, 1, zero, and liftoff!
The final liftoff of Atlantis on the shoulders of the space shuttle. America will continue the dream.
COOPER: You guys have seen this a lot, this is the first time I have actually been here for it. It is completely different, it such a cool experience. The power of it, I mean, we are -- how many miles away are we?
ZARRELLA: About five miles.
COOPER: Five miles away. The sound is deafening.
COLEMAN: You feel it.
COOPER: Yes, you feel it like go through you, and the light is so bright from the boosters that you can barely look at it. I mean, it is such a searing, searing heat.
COOPER: Wow. Just so many extraordinary different emotions. I mean, to witness it in person, so much different than seeing it on TV. But we're glad that the launch happened and that folks around the world were able to watch it on our coverage. ...I sound like an idiot, because while Carol was talking to people, all I kept saying to you was like, wow. I mean, I still can't get over the power of that machine and the technology required to make this happen.
COOPER: You just heard him say, "a sentimental journey into history."
Thanks for sharing this moment in history with us ~
And a couple of behind the scenes photos from today ~