I grew up in the future back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We lived along the east coast of Florida from Cocoa Beach to Jacksonville. With NASA firing rockets into space and Disney being erected down in the middle of orange groves, it was a magical time.
As a boy, I remember watching grainy images of the Apollo missions lifting off from Cape Canaveral on television, and then rushing outside to actually see them rise into the sky. Even in Jacksonville, being over a hundred miles from the Cape couldn’t stop my heart from racing as I stared mesmerized into the sky watching a trail of smoke lift higher and higher until it was out of sight.
This fascination continued into my adolescence when we moved to Houston. Back then, space travel was still pretty special. The whole world paid attention to it. Even Russia. When we started using the space shuttle, America pretty much became invincible. Russia even decided to call it a Cold War a few years later. Today, the idea of space exploration is still magical when you consider our species as this fragile carbon form that carries on as though there is no universe out there.
Next week we’re in Vilano Beach for our annual Florida holiday. And on July 8, at 11:26 a.m., Atlantis will be the very last space shuttle to ever lift-off from Cape Canaveral. We’ll be on the beach. It will be a bright day. My wife and daughters will huddle around me under a beach umbrella as we watch the launch countdown on my iPhone. Then, a few seconds after lift-off, we’ll turn our gaze down coast and stare mesmerized into the sky until Atlantis is out of sight.
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Jun 29, 2011
Very jealous of your chance to see the final shuttle liftoff. I’ve followed the shuttle program since it started, which is pretty much as long as I can remember. I’m sure remnants of a 4th grade research project on Columbia (the only shuttle at the time) are buried somewhere in my parents’ basement waiting rediscovery from my own kids. I was fortunate enough to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston when we accompanied my dad to a conference when I was 12. But I’ve never been as close since, which is a real shame. Enjoy your trip and a shared last hurrah.
Jun 29, 2011
Hey, out of sight indeed.
I hope that the replacement vehicle for the shuttle comes quickly and efficiently. It is a sad state of affairs that we came so far in the space race only to somehow run out of fuel now. I’m not quite as old as you, but as a child of the 1980s, outer space was the future. It was constantly promoted that way and nothing filled me with more optimism when we made some great discovery, or more dread when we saw some great tragedy. I look back on that time and see (perhaps through nostalgic lenses) a childhood and adolescence filled with hope and wonder – in part because of NASA and the space shuttle. Today, it seems kids and teens (and whatever “tweens” are – how I hate that term) aren’t filled with wonder or hope about the future. They’re filled with ‘meh’ about – everything. They need dreams and goals that don’t involve American Idol or YouTube fame. And we need things like a robust space program to give them something to shoot for. Bang…zoom…to the moon? If only…
Jun 29, 2011
I’m jealous you’ll get to see the last shuttle liftoff. Very cool. I’m listening to this now, http://tinyurl.com/3wfa3mc, about the Apollo program.
Jun 29, 2011
You’re going to have a great time. I can hardly put into words how it felt for me, I suppose just really amazing.
Jul 18, 2011
You can still follow STS-135 through the collective experience of those who participated in the NASA TweetUp at http://NASAtweet.US
My novel – Minor King
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