The space shuttle program's final landing this morning put the Kennedy Space Center family through a roller coaster ride of emotions.
"I saw grown men and grown women crying today," Launch Director Mike Leinbach said during a 10 a.m. press conference. "Human emotions came out on the runway today. You couldn't suppress it."
On the runway, Leinbach and colleagues took pictures together and admired "the beauty of the vehicle," Atlantis.
"It was a family event out there today," he said.
He said the emotions were hard to describe.
"They were good emotions that we brought the crew home safely and the mission is complete," he said. "Certainly sadness that it's over and people will be moving on. I hate to see them leave, but that’s a reality."
Friday is the last day of work for 1,510 local employees of United Space Alliance, the lead shuttle contractor.
Hundreds, perhaps thousansd, of KSC employees are now gathered outside shuttle hangars for an appreciation event, with Atlantis posing as a backdrop before it is towed inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2. Bands are playing the many employees are waving small American flags.