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Chris Bray, right, and his father, Kenneth, 30 years ago and today. (Courtesy of Chris Bray)

By Sarah Anne Hughes

On Friday, Atlantis launched into space for the final time, marking the beginning of the end for NASA’s space shuttle program. More than 30 years earlier, the shuttle Columbia took off for the first time.

Chris Bray and his father, Kenneth, were there to see both.

Chris Bray, a 43-year-old technical director at a creative interactive marketing agency in New York, posted two side-by-side photos of the shuttle launches to Flickr. In one, a 13-year-old Bray stands by as his father Kenneth, then 39, peers into binoculars. In the other, the son and his father, now 30 years older, stand in the same positions. The moving photos have attracted more than 481,000 views in just two days, tapping into the emotions and nostalgia many have felt as the program ends.

Chris Bray and his father have “always been astronomy buffs and big supporters and followers of the space program for as long as I can remember,” he said in an e-mail.

“My father was building model rockets growing up in the ‘50s and I was in rocket club during grade school,” he said.

Kenneth Bray, a jewelry designer, was commissioned to make a series of pins for Columbia’s first mission, and that’s what led them to the shuttle launch April 12, 1981. There, the 13-year-old and his father watched Columbia’s first flight from one of the causeways at the Kennedy Space Center.

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