Friday, July 8, 2011
Final Space Shuttle Mission
The last mission in NASA's 30 year long Space Shuttle program is now underway. (You can watch video here). I'm having a hard time coming to grips with its conclusion this morning. Were I someone who planned ahead, and clearly I'm not, I should have made a trip to Florida to photograph this.
As a child, I was fascinated with the space shuttle, and would often answer "astronaut" when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I imagine that was pretty typical for boys my age. I was in first grade when the first shuttle launched in 1981 and remember watching several of the lift offs at school. Back then all the Space Shuttle launches were shown live on network TV-- it was an event, and one that I found mesmerizing. I remember reading about and I'm sure I saw video of the Apollo missions, but there was something much cooler about the space shuttle. It didn't just go to space. It went to space, came back, and went to space again. It was a real ship-- the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon come to life.
Fast forward five years, and I still remember the Challenger accident like it was yesterday. I was in fifth grade, and I recall our teacher bursting through the door and exclaiming: "The space shuttle has blown up!" She then wheeled a television into the room so we could watch news footage of two giant fireballs shooting through the sky. Going to space, it turned out, was much more dangerous and complicated than we had realized.
Thirty years is a long time and NASA deserves credit for keeping the program running for so long, even considering the two catastrophic accidents that happened along the way. Thirty years. In 1981 Ronald Reagan was in the second year of his presidency, Dallas was the most popular show on TV, the first Delorean was built, and Duran Duran released their self titled debut CD with the single "Planet Earth"-- a fitting song for today, if you ask me. Since then, the Space Shuttle program has seen four additional presidencies, numerous wars, and various rises and falls in the US economy. It's a survivor. It will be missed.