Thursday, April 19, 2012

So Long Discovery!

It's kind of weird that NASA's Shuttle program is now over. I grew up in Florida, right on the Space Coast and did not miss one single shuttle launch and it makes me sad to think that such a HUGE part of my childhood is over. I know that I took the program for granted, its very easy to when you see something happen so many times that it sometimes was more of an annoyance (traffic, people, pets getting scared with the sonic booms) but I do feel very fortunate to have seen the launches.

My grandparents live right across the river so I had one of the best views available and even saw a few launches from the Space Center property when I worked there. It was absolutely incredible to feel something so powerful and know the danger the astronauts were on their way to space. Space, as in the moon and planets and stars, the space station--thats nuts that they launched from Central FL and were up there in space and not even actually on a planet! Its hard to wrap your head around that!

I remember seeing the Challenger, I was in first grade and I remember knowing something was wrong. I remember getting in trouble for running down the hall from our lunch room, but nothing would prevent me from missing a launch. Certainly not a teacher's warning to slow down ;) I remember it was cold outside (for FL) and another teacher brought a blanket outside to throw over her shoulders instead of a jacket. Once the shuttle launched I overheard her say "oh I guess they must have sent two up at once and now they've separated". Even in that split second I knew she was wrong. Not even just logically, two at once, wouldn't we have heard about this plan? But I also had a feeling something was different and not in a good way. Our tiny town basically shut down after that tragedy. The majority of our mothers and fathers worked in some capacity at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and when they had layoffs, it meant bad news for those depending on those jobs--like our whole town.

I remember the Columbia tragedy too. That was bizarre. Shuttle landings aren't always heard, the direction of the wind, time of day, time of year all has an effect on the sound of the two sonic booms you hear once they enter the atmosphere again. The crowds are gone by then and the re-entry is much less dramatic than when they are launched so by default they are a much smaller deal. My habit was to watch it on tv until I knew it would be visible, then go outside to see it in person. I watched on tv that day as it flew over Texas and things were not normal and soon we found out what happened. I was upset by the death's of the astronauts, when I worked at KSC I met some of them and took pictures of them on their way to go to the launch pad. It was also heartbreaking to know that they did not die right when they hit they re-entered Earth, that is so very, very sad. Once they figured out happened and they took a hangar at KSC to lay out all the pieces of the shuttle, employees and family were invited to come see the wreckage. A little odd maybe but I was amazed at how much work it must have been to not only collect the pieces but to lay them out so exactly. Here is a what I'm talking about. Every found was brought back to ITS specific location. Sad to know so much did survive while all souls were lost.

Where were YOU when these tragedies happened? What do you remember about the early Shuttle launches

1 comment:

  1. How fortunate to get to have that brilliance as a routine and integral part of your upbringing. I remember even as a very young girl, stopping everything to watch them walk on the moon. I remember listening on the radio while at work when Challenger blew up. We'd become complacent in our expectations and this reminded us just how much danger these fine people faced as a part of their job. We were at Disney when another shuttle took off - right before the fireworks at Magic Kingdom were to start. In a way, it put everything back into perspective. We had just witnessed some 'real' fireworks of sorts - and our son won't even remember it. I too am sorry to see this division of NASA end.



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