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OKC NASA Retiree Won't Be Watching Final Shuttle Launch

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Retired mission control engineer Jerry Elliott says the final space shuttle launch will be bittersweet. Retired mission control engineer Jerry Elliott says the final space shuttle launch will be bittersweet.

Jacqueline Sit, News 9

Jerry Elliott was part of the Apollo space program and dedicated his life to NASA for more than 40 years, but the retired Oklahoma City man said he will not be watching tomorrow's final space shuttle launch.

"It's a little bit sad for me, to tell you the truth.  To work so many years with so many people, fabulous people and minds for so many years to develop something and see it curtailed," he said.

NASA's historic final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on Friday is an event that will be hard for Elliott to watch.

"I was a young boy," he said, "had big dreams and I had a vision I was going to land men on the moon and I stuck with it."

So, in 1970 James Elliott served on ground crew for Apollo 13 as a flight mission operations engineer at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston.

He remembers the mission as if it were yesterday.

"That's something you'd never, ever, ever forget."

The retired 68-year-old said he hopes the retirement of the shuttle launch program is not permanent.

"We need young people to replace people like me who are retired and not doing the things we used to do," Elliott said.

But, he said, it's not really replacements he wants to see so much as young people who will drive the space program forward to new frontiers.  Elliott wants the new generation to not follow "in our footsteps, but follow in their own footsteps with the encouragement to do the great things to keep the dream."

For now the retired NASA flight controller says the last launch of the space shuttle stirs mixed emotions.

"It's sad saying goodbye.  It's a happy feeling in one instance to see it launch and be successful.  It's another one to see it and know it's the last one."

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