11.03.2010

GODSPEED

Over our nearly 20-years of living on The Space Coast, we've had the amazing experience of viewing dozens of shuttle launches up close and personal.  For us, this was not a once-in-a-lifetime event, but a thrill lived many times over, and often shared with family and friends.  We've viewed launches from the VIP site on the Banana River, from the press viewing stands at KSC, from the beach, from the riverfronts and from our own front yard.  If one is honored to be at the VIP site, as we were on many occasions, you travel by NASA bus to the site, several hours prior to launch.  We have waited there in the cold chill of a January night.  We have waited there in the hot and humid July mid-day sun.  You watch the countdown clock.  There is always a hold at 9:00 minutes and counting.  Are all systems go?  The countdown clock begins again.  At 3:00 minutes and counting, you'll hear the voices from Mission Control: Go, Go, Go.  Your heart beats fast.  You want to hear only "go", you never want to hear the word "scrub".  Because all it takes is one "scrub" and back to the bus, to return yet another night or day.  But return you do, always. For whether it is a nighttime launch, or day ~ whether against the rising sun over the ocean, or against the reflection of a setting sun from the west, each and every launch is spectacular.  The engines fire.  The smoke rises.  The earth shakes beneath your feet.  You cover your ears against the sound blasts.  Then, lift off.  The smoke plume curls up through the sky.  Farther and farther it travels, faster and faster it goes.  You watch for the separation of the rocket boosters, which fall away and land in the ocean.  Safe.  Another safe launch.  An awesome spectacle, an amazing feat by humankind.   We have cheered with a large crowd of young Japanese women when the first female astronaut from Japan rode off into space.  On one bus ride back to the center (at 4:00 am, no less), we shared passing bottles of vodka from Russian visitors who had just viewed the first shuttle launch of a Russian cosmonaut joining with our astronauts.  We have met people from all over the world, as they come from far and near to experience this.  Some had a personal interest in special payloads that were on board the shuttles.  I remember two in particular: a young man, a musician, had designed and created a very special guitar -- it would travel on board the shuttle that day, to be played by an astronaut once in space.  Could we, as humans, make music in zero gravity?  If in future times we were to live in outer space, we would want to have music as part of our lives -- would it be?  Could it be?  Sadly, I never learned the results of that experiment.  Another I recall, was an elementary school teacher from Alabama. Her class one year mailed a Teddy Bear to another class of students in another part of the world.  They in turn mailed Teddy on... and on... and on.  For many years, through many classes of students, Teddy had traveled the world.  Yes, the same Teddy... greeting hundreds and hundreds of students over the years.  Now this teacher was retiring, and today Teddy would travel out-of-this-world.  His final journey, likely watched and cheered on by thousands of students worldwide who remembered Teddy.  Being a part of this over many years has been rewarding.  Our space program has brought so much to our everyday lives in the fields of medicine, and technology, and food production, and automotive safety.  Many payloads were scientific experiments, many were just to learn "can we make music" or let's honor Teddy.  But the list of developments that improve much that we come in contact with each day is endless, and yet few are even aware that all these advancements are a direct result of space exploration and the shuttle program.  The one that usually brings a giggle: TANG.  Yup, that too, is  from the space program.  What President Kennedy envisioned many decades ago, came to pass.  Now the shuttle program is winding down.  Today we anticipate the 39th and final launch of shuttle Discovery, STS 133 with her crew of veteran astronauts.  Only one launch remains. It is a sad time for those of us who have watched and been inspired by the years of achievement. It is a sad time for the thousands who were part of the NASA, KSC and the contractor workforce as soon they face an uncertain future. It is a sad time as we pause and remember Challenger and Columbia and the brave souls lost on those flights. To all those who have been a part of space history, we thank you.  To Discovery, and her crew, Godspeed.

Update: 4:00 am, 11.3.2010: Launch tentatively postponed to Thursday due
to engine issues; there is a possibility of further postponement to December.

23 comments:

  1. Such an interesting, wonderful post and we LOVE the darling photo collage as well=too adorable!!...Yes, safe journey to those courageous travelers; very sad it will soon end=thanks so much for sharing your personal story and observations...xoxo...J, Calle, Halle, Sukki

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  2. Oh Ann...
    It is wonderful to hear your personal, eye-witness account of the years of space travel! How lucky you have been to see it all so closely. When you were watching, (up close and personal), I was watching (as a young child) the skies in a remote part of South Africa. (60's-70's)
    In such places the skies are almost pitch black on a moonless night, but they are dotted with bright, bright stars and it is easy to see the various 'satellites' travelling around our earth. We would lie on our backs for hours, in the scrub grass of the bushveld, to await the reappearance of the satellite we have just seen disappear. They were amazing times, knowing that there were people on board, circumnavigating our earth.
    The moon landing too was special as we sat and watched a full moon,whilst listening to a small transistor radio. So much development has happened since then...
    My brother kept all the magazines relating to those times.
    The years advanced and I too got to watch the horrors of 'Challenger' on television.
    Yes, it is through those brave souls that so many advances have been made. Some of our own SA gifted school students have been granted the opportunities of visiting your centres...and we are grateful!
    Thank you for your amazing account...I read it with awe!
    I can't believe that it's coming to an end...or is it?
    Sending lotsaluv
    MAXMOM IN SOUTH AFRICA

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  3. Amen.
    I spent my youth watching NASA do it's miracles. The Gemini program was the first I remember. Living so close, I took it all for granted. Now I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention.
    I want to believe we will continue our hunt for knowledge in space, some way, somehow.

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  4. That was a great post, my Dad has seen at least one launch from every Nasa series of missions. Loved the pics!

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  5. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have been very lucky to have witnessed the launches. Mom can only imagine what that must be like since she's only seen it on TV.

    We took a vote and we all agree that Maggy and Zoey are the cutest astronauts EVER!

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  6. We loved your pictures of the furry catstronauts!

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  7. Yesh, Godspeed. Thank you so furry mucho fur youz wonderful accounting of the shuttles. We only see them on teevee.

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  8. Awesome pic of our furry astronawt friends! And a great post too.

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  9. I can imagine how awesome it is to experience -

    Both good and bad -

    It is breathtaking to watch on television -

    Thanks for sharing your 'furst paw' observations!

    Khyra's Mom

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  10. I have never seen a launch personally, but my husband did see a night launch. I hear it is spectacular! We will miss the shuttle and the space program. We can not forget the sound of one as it exploded over head!

    Godspeed Discovery!

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  11. We loved the post. We want to honor the pioneers of travel, the original pilots and workers on Apollo/Gemini/Mercury. All of our astronauts were very brave men and women.

    In the 1960s the Woman's father worked on the Saturn V as an electrical engineer. In the 1970s he moved to unmanned craft working on cabling through JPL/Cal Tech.

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  12. Such a wonderful post. Mama remembers watching some of the Apollo missions on tv as a wee little kid. She always loved seeing them take off. So sad to think all of this is going to end. Godspeed.
    Wirey Hugs, Purrz & Licks,
    Butchy, Katie, Ruby, Sylvester, Scuby & Hootie

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  13. Mom has seen every launch since we moved here in 1999. Our Daddy has seen ever more and many from that VIP location. Mom never got to experience that. We are very sad to see the program end. There are launch opportunities Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We hope it doesn't have to wait till December since we see Zoey and Maggy are already suited up!

    The Florida Furkids and Angel Sniffie

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  14. A great post. And we loved the pix of the furry girls. Reminds us of the time Sassy (Gracie's sis) was an astronaut.

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  15. Beautiful post! We too have loved the program. We have followed it over the news and internet, not quite as lucky as you to actually have seen a launch with our own eyes.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful prose.

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  16. How EXCITING to get to watch a launch! Momma remembers the first time a man walked on the moon and how excited the entire nation was.

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  17. That was a pawsome tribute! Fangs fur sharings =^_^= purrs

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  18. What beautiful memories you have!!! We felt like we were right there with you. All paws crossed for this last flight to be a successful one.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

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  19. What a great post! Thankyou for sharing your personal experience. It's exciting to hear about it since we have never been 'there' to experience it.

    Too bad an era is coming to an end. It will always be in our memory.

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  20. Fantastic post. Yes, it is indeed sad that this glorious and wonderful chapter is coming to an end. I remember as a child seeing one of the early shuttle missions end at Edwards AFB. Amazing.

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  21. Not exactly the same, but we were watching a Star Trek Special last night, and they introduced Buzz Aldrin and Mae Carol Jemison, MD. She has the distinction of being the first real astronaut to ever appear in a Star Trek series

    That was as close as we will ever get...

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  22. For some reason, this post bought tears to Our eyes...silly QM? Well, We remember "demanding" Mum to buy Tang so We could have the same elixir as the Astronauts!
    Our Papa had moved to Florida for a few years, and would try enticing Us to visit to "watch the launch" from his yard near Orlando. The 5 years he lived in The Sunshine State afforded him memories such as those, but one of his goals eluded him...he never did see an alligator!
    It is a sad thing indeed, that Earthly matters has caused This Country at least to curtail it's operations.
    The Girls however, were quite fetching in their Space Suits indeed!
    Sorry for the lengthy post. We do let Ourselves get carried away...We were once diagnosed with LPS...Long Posting Syndrome. A med adjustment is in order, methinks...
    Blessings to All!
    Rose and the Space-Cadet-Royals

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  23. Thank you for such a heart-warming post! As a kid I was fascinated by outer space, and wrote to NASA like a groupie for photos and information. They always wrote back, and sent many glossy photos and brochures.

    We absolutely LOVE the photo of Maggy and Zoey suited up in their space suits!!!

    Purrs,
    Padre, Panda Bear, Meerkat, Cookie, and Caramel (& fosters Hunter, Sunny, Sky, Silver, and Rico)

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