Space Shuttle Ends: Minnesota Connections Clark Gregor July 11, 2011 Last Friday, Atlantis and four astronauts rocketed into orbit on NASA’s last space shuttle voyage, marking the end of an era. Over three decades, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour flew more than 100 missions. NPR took a look back at some of the momentous video that came out of NASA’s space shuttle program.This got me thinking, what impact has the Space Program had on our local business community? KARE 11’s Allen Costantini dug up a number of Minnesota Connections. There is at least one Minnesota business working with NASA on the shuttle program:Only a few Minnesotans have experienced the weightlessness of space, but thousands have helped with the “heavy lifting” so others could get there. Many worked at the ATK Corporation, headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. ATK has been involved in the Space Program since its inception,” said Brian Grace, ATK spokesperson. “ATK developed the solid rocket motor that powers the Space Shuttle Program and launched NASA satellites before that point in time.” Approximately 2500 of ATK’s 18,000 employees work in Minnesota.I am sure that over time another big player in Minnesota, 3M, has had plenty to do with various NASA developments. A recent example is testing 3M’s “Glass Bubbles for cryogenic insulation.” They “designed a unique portable dust collection system specifically for this application. The equipment was supplied by Donaldson Company, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota.”Costantini found that there are a surprising number of astronauts from Minnesota, too:Atlantis Pilot Doug Hurley is the husband of AstronautKaren Nyberg of Vining, Minn.Deke Slayton of Sparta, Wis., who achieved a B.A. in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Minnesota in 1949 was a member of the “Mercury Seven.”Dale Gardner of Fairmont, Minn., flew on two shuttle missions early in the program in 1983 and 1984.George “Pinky” Nelson of Wilmar, Minnesota was in the first crew to climb aboard Shuttle Discoveryin September, 1988 and renew the shuttle program after the Challenger accident.Colonel Robert Cabana, USMC, of Minneapolis, became one of Minnesota’s most frequent space travelers, logging four separate shuttle missions from 1990 to 1998, involving more than 1,000 hours in space.Lieutenant Colonel Duane “Digger” Carey, USAF, of Saint Paul, flew on Shuttle Columbia in 2002.Captain Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, USN, of Saint Paul became the first Minnesota woman in space.Definitely check out the whole KARE 11 post for more details on these astronauts and their stories. What other ties or impacts has Minnesota felt due to NASA? What changes do you see with the end of the shuttle program? Let us know in the comments.