The end of America's re-usable space vehicle dream is not only a bitter blow for at least 8000 Shuttle workers who will lose their jobs but a blow for the US's vision of itself as a pioneer.
The Space Shuttle, which first launched in 1981, stunned the world.
It was not only a scientific and engineering milestone but an embodiment of America's continuing capacity for wonder and achievement.
It was the American Dream and Manifest Destiny all rolled into one 120ft high gleaming space ship.
When Atlantis blasts off from Cape Canaveral on Friday the dream will be over.
Critics of the program say NASA, with an $18.5 billion budget, need to look to commercial alternatives in the private sector.
But there will be few Americans who don't feel their place in the world just slightly diminished by the end of the Space Shuttle program.
NASA Shuttle astronaut Leroy Chiao, who lived on board the International Space Station, said: “I’m just sad to see the shuttle program coming to an end.
“The space shuttle is the most amazing flying machine that’s ever been conceived and designed.
“My fear is we’re going to lose that corporate knowledge of how to build a space plane.”