Final space shuttle launch specials begin lifting off tonight

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The “other” big event in Central Florida this week is the final launch of the space shuttle — Atlantis is scheduled to blast off on Friday.

The shuttle program has been a huge part of the area’s culture, economy and history over the past 30 years, so Orlando’s TV stations are rolling out specials to mark the end of the shuttle era.

WFTV-9: Eyewitness to History — tonight at 8 p.m.

WESH-2: The Shuttle Program: Launches, Lessons, Legacy — Thursday at 8 p.m.

WKMG-6: Final Flight — Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

All the local stations will be airing the final launch live. Here’s a blast from the past: the first shuttle launch, Columbia, on April 12, 1981:

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Roger Simmons has been blogging about Orlando television since 2001. You can email him at