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Jul 8, 2011 12:36 AM by Matt Stafford

Remembering all their work before the final launch

Colorado has one of the largest space related economies in the country, and there are a lot of local ties to the space program. The final shuttle launch will be bittersweet for many of these people.

Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida just before 7:30 a.m. (EST). It's the final flight for a fleet of shuttles that have been servicing NASA for the last 30-plus years, transporting astronauts to space. After the mission Atlantis will join the other shuttles in history, being shown in museums.

"It (the shuttle) was pushing a lot of frontiers during its early development," says Ron Sega, a retired astronaut who lives in Colorado.

Sega was a part of two shuttle missions; ironically, piloting Atlantis.

"Atlantis was a great shuttle-vehicle, and it was the one that I had the opportunity to fly my last flight on in 1996," says Sego. He'll be watching its last launch -- like many, with pride.

"I can't believe you still have all of this," Christie Dawson says to Lori Lessard talking about space program memorabilia they have scattered across a table. Lessard collected it all during thirteen years of working for TRW in Colorado Springs.

"We built the communication boxes for the space shuttle so the astronauts could communicate with the ground," Lessard explains. "We were just sub-contracting for the main company in Redondo Beach (Cali.), but we felt we were just treated as part of the team."

For Lessard and others it was a special feeling watching shuttles launch, so now they are planning to celebrate the final liftoff with a tremendous sense of pride in their work.

"I think about, 'Gee, I wonder if my piece of equipment is on there, the one I built.' That's what makes you feel like you're part of it," says Lessard.

"The ups were great, the lows were bad, but the pride in all of it still remains," says Christie Dawson, adding that their families took as much pride in their work as they did.

"It was quite a thing to be able to work on that," says Lessard.

They, along with many others, will be watching as the space shuttle era comes to an end with the conclusion of the Atlantis mission.

"You bring one to a great conclusion, you celebrate that and you go forward," says Sega.

Lessard and Dawson will be hosting other former employees at O'Furry's in Colorado Springs on Saturday -- it's at the corner of Fillmore and Institute. The party will start at 2 p.m. And it's open to former TRW employees or anyone who wants to celebrate the space shuttle program.

To keep up with the status of the Atlantis' mission, click here.

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