Staff members celebrated the final shuttle landing inside Goddard's NASCOM Operations Management Center. But for most of the morning, there was a lot of quiet anticipation and reflection.
"I'm so proud. If you think about what we'll be talking about in 20, 50 years, our kids, my kids will say 'oh my God Americans flew the space shuttle,'" said Jim Garvin, Goddard Space Center chief scientist. "A heavy lift launch vehicle like an airplane 135 times. No one in history has ever done that."
Some of the staff has been at Goddard for 30-plus years. Many of them have worked on all 135 shuttle missions.
Goddard Space Center will not see the layoffs coming to other parts of the agency.
Science and space research will continue at the center, with a new emphasis on deep space. And Goddard staff will continue to assist future shuttle missions operated by Russians, Japanese and, in the future, private companies.
"Some of us want to fly experiments on those vehicles as they start to get routine access to re-supply," Garvin said. "And that will be a new way for NASA scientists across the agency really to use that commercial angle."
The next big goal at Goddard is to put a science lab on Mars. It would measure the planet's chemistry to determine if life can exist there.
"It will be a robot the size of a small car that will explore Mars as if we were there with an instrument built right here in Maryland," Garvin said.