(NASA Photo) As the page is turned on America's remarkable space shuttle era and the next chapter begins in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration, we reflect on the contributions from across the nation that made the shuttle program a success.
I want to thank the men and women at the Air Force Flight Test Center and at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base for their exemplary service to the space shuttle program.
Dryden's contributions predate the orbiters. The center's work with research aircraft that validated aerodynamics, structures, thermal properties, flight controls and human physiology was key to decisions made during early stages of shuttle development. Dryden also conducted the Approach and Landing Tests with the space shuttle prototype Enterprise, which validated that the shuttle would be capable of safe unpowered landings.
Nine of the first 10 space shuttle missions landed at Edwards Air Force Base. At the backup landing site, the men and women of the AFFTC and Dryden always were prepared for a landing, right up until STS-135 was safely on the ground at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in July.
The shuttle program brought our nation many firsts. There were many proud moments, some of which I was privileged to experience personally as a shuttle commander. In fact, my first two shuttle missions as a shuttle pilot concluded at Dryden. I was very proud to be part of the program, and will carry those experiences with me for the rest of my life.
As we move forward, we stand on the shoulders of our astronauts and the thousands of people who supported them on the ground, as well as with those who cheered their triumphs and mourned their tragedies.
The final shuttle flight marked the end of an era, but we recommit ourselves to continuing human spaceflight and taking the necessary – and difficult – steps to ensure America's leadership in human spaceflight for years to come.
We look forward to Dryden's contributions as NASA continues its work in human exploration.
I want to send American astronauts where we've never been before. We can do this by focusing our resources on exploration and innovation while leveraging private-sector support to take Americans to the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit.
On the bold path President Obama and Congress have set out for us, we will continue the grand tradition of exploration.
Children who dream of being astronauts today will not fly on the space shuttle, but one day they may walk on Mars. The future belongs to us, and just as those who came before us did, we have an obligation to set an ambitious course and take an inspired nation along for the journey.
I'm ready to get on with the next big challenge, and I want you all with me!
The future is bright for human spaceflight and for NASA. American ingenuity is alive and well. And it will fire up our economy and help us win the future, but only if we dream big and imagine endless possibilities. That future begins today.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden