August 26, 2022


July 8, 2011 marked the final shuttle launch of the U.S. Space Mission Program.
Shuttle Atlantis lifted off at 11:26 a.m., ET. on a hazy morning, barely to be seen over the
Indian River, certainly heard, as my husband Vic and I shared this occasion with our then toddler grandson.
The end of an era.

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.

On Monday, August 29, from Pad 39B, where shuttles once launched, ARTEMIS, unmanned this time, and weather permitting will blast off on a journey to and around the moon.  Toward a future which will once again bring astronauts to the moon and to Mars and beyond.
ARTEMIS, twin of Apollo, is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built.

Please visit Zoolatry tomorrow for more ...



  1. There is nothing more exciting than watching the rockets take off on TV. I have loved watching them all of my life but I've never witnessed it in person. Thank you for this, Ann!

  2. What wonderful memories of all those shuttle launches. Our mom was able to see a few of those when they coincided with trips to visit her sister when she lived in Orlando for a few years. Always a wonder to behold. We can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

  3. Ann- what a great post- thanks for sharing the memories! I remember the man on the moon walking- wow!

  4. I've been watching some flashbacks on the History Channel too. It must be amazing to hear/see/feel the space shuttle lift off
    Hugs cecilia

  5. How amazing to be such a part of those lift offs and the flights with their payloads. Your relating of the history and events themselves was inspiring.
    My late brother-in-law worked for NASA, and he got to watch some of those events from his desk where he worked. (Though he worked in a not direct capacity with the flights...)

    I remember vividly the first moon landing and the first human footprints on the moon's surface. I put a note of it in my Bible that day, I think I was about 12 or 13.

    I was at my work when that explosion happened and all those astronauts were lost...all the TV's in the patient rooms were turned to that, and everyone saw it happen. The whole day was blanketed in sadness, even though none of us had anything to do with the Space Program.

    When I took some college courses, way back in 1976/7, I wrote a paper for my astronomy class about the way the space program had major influences in the medical world, and that the 'space arm' was in part conceived and done by Canadians! We now have robotic assisted surgery (way less traumatic) thanks to that invention, and I am a recipient of a few surgeries by that method...!

    OK, enough blabbering!

  6. As someone who has only watched take offs and landings on television, I can't imagine how beautiful it must have been viewing them in person!

  7. Mom always wanted to visit the space coast but never had a chance. Viewing the launch in person must be awesome experience! Love these beautiful photos. :). Juno

  8. That was sure fun! I don't know if I ever told you, but I had two Uncles who were part of the space program from the beginning. One was an engineer for one of the contractors and had about 30+ patents, the other was one of the guys who strapped the astronauts in the space capsule. We still see him sometimes on the old Nasa clips. We got to see lots of launches too, in each series, and man, that Space Shuttle rockets were loud!

  9. Such wonderful memories. I have only ever seen it on the TV.

  10. Those were some very good memories of the good 'ole days. I still remember when we lived in Winter Haven, we could see the launches of the shuttles from our front porch. All that was missing was the loud noise of the take-off. Sometimes we could hear the rumble off in the distance. But we could always hear the loud sonic boom when the shuttles came home.

  11. God Speed to them all. If you want to see what could have been with the space program watch For All Mankind on Apple +

  12. Thank you for sharing these amazing memories. My hubby is a big fan of all things space and would love to see a launch. XO

  13. When the first shuttle launched, i was in art class in high school and we were listening to the radio, tuned to the news broadcasting the whole thing, It was so exciting.

    My friends and clients. Ms. V and Mr. L, have a son who works for NASA and worked on Artemis. He's invited to be at the launch, and he can hardly wait, i do hope all goes well, for him and everyone like him who worked so hard to make it happen.

  14. this is indeed a specail flash back in your memories. Bob would love to watch like you did, he always goes outside to see it from our front yard when they lift off. not as special as your viewing though

  15. Wonderful memories. I always love seeing everyone's photos here. Thank you.