Friday, November 14, 2008

The Rockets Red Glare STS-126

Tonight we witnessed one of the most awesome things about living on the space coast of Florida. At 7:55 pm this evening, we were sitting alongside the road near Port Canaveral with hundreds of other people as Space Shuttle Endeavour hurled from the launch pad and roared into space on its mission. The feelings that wash over you as you watch these lift offs with hundreds of others is indescribable. The lift off tonight is bittersweet as it is among the final shuttle missions - I believe there are 11 left. We are ushering out an era that spans generations as we watched these shuttles lumber into space on their final missions.

The feeling of being that close to a launch is thrilling. I remember the days when the Shuttle program was new and the school allowed us to watch the lift offs on a TV in the classroom. After all these years, I recall the thrill that raced along my spine watching the first shuttle launches. The Shuttle proved itself to be so dependable that over the years we seemed to forget that space flight was wrought with danger. It took the Space Shuttle Challenger to remind us of the danger that is inherent in these endeavours as it came apart before our eyes with school teacher Christa McCulliffe aboard. This reminder resulted in the shuttle program being grounded while we struggled to understand what went so horribly wrong that day. I was in high school when the we returned to space for the first time after the Challenger Disaster. I skipped lunch that day and sat in the school library watching as Space Shuttle Discovery returned America to space. The pride I felt that day rivaled the thrill I felt so many years earlier watching the first Shuttle launch.

We are privileged to live in this part of Florida where we can stand in our back yard and watch the shuttle or rocket launches. We can also drive 20 miles up the road and see and feel the experience the event in way many Americans cannot. My daughter has been able to attend school in an area that does not treat these launches as commonplace events but instead recognizes them as events to be seen/experienced. Since we have been here, Space Shuttle Columbia reminded us that space flight remains fraught with danger and
once again the American space flight was grounded while we once again searched for answers.

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