7.08.2011

ATLANTIS ~ STS 135

Today marks the final shuttle launch of the U.S. Space Mission Program.
Weather permitting, Atlantis will lift off at 11:26 a.m., ET.
The end of an era.
Below, our photos of an Atlantis launch from June, 2007.
And following, Zoey's thoughts on shuttle launches...
Lastly, our own thoughts and memories revisited about our years on the Space Coast
and enjoying this amazing period in our history.
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During 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.  What President Kennedy envisioned many decades ago, came to pass.  Now the shuttle program is winding down. 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 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.  
Atlantis and her crew, Godspeed.

13 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post. We are watching and waiting for the launch today. It heightens our excitement to read your inspiring words. Thanks.

    pawhugs, Max

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  2. Wonderful post and you brought it all to life for us. Having seen the shuttle on the launch pad we can watch from afar and know we saw it. Your words today gave us an even better insight into what goes on and we thank you. God speed indeed and we wait with baited breath to see tha launch.. xx

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  3. You should send this tribute as a link to Florida Today. They are doing a special section on the years of the Shuttle program. This would fit. It's a wonderful tribute. Thanks!

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  4. what a great post - you are so very lucky to have been able to see history over and over again! amazing!

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  5. We do hope today's launch will be a go, go, go!!! This is such a beautiful post and tribute to the life of KSC and NASA. And how wonderful that you have those photographic memories of your Mom at a viewing. Paws crossed for a successful launch.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

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  6. A very fine tribute indeed.

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  7. How fortunate for you all to have been so close to where history was made, especially today.

    Love your header with the girls in their space suits!

    A very touching tribute. Thanks for sharing your memories, Ann!

    Hugs,
    Tom & Julie

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  8. We have lived during a spectacular part of history, haven't we? Wonderful post!

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  9. Those are great memories of shuttle launches. Mom remembers her first launch viewing after she met Dad. She flew down from NJ for a visit and they drove up to Titusville for the launch. They barely made it, popped into a Holiday Inn parking lot and saw her first launch...a SPECTACULAR night launch. Mom and Dad saw every launch after that together. They planned vacations and work and many other things around the launch schedules. They never missed a single launch. They were on their way to Atlanta and had no radio reception when the Columbia disaster happend. They cried through that one with many others. Mom had leaky eyes today and we know she will when Atlantis returns. The end of an era.

    The Florida Furkids and Angel Sniffie

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  10. Godspeed and a safe return! THis is a wonderful tribute to history and a lot of memories!

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  11. Beautiful tribute. Mom was lucky enough to be on Edwards AFB during a landing when her dad was still in the AF. They were up really early to see it land as the sun came up.

    Cody and Gracie

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  12. Really enjoyed this great post filled with lovely memories of your Mom, cute commentary by Zo and your interesting insights...We also loved seeing Zoey's lasers do the job :)...xoxo...Calle, Halle, Sukki

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  13. Wow, what an amazing story and experience for you to have been part of that.

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