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End of an Era – Final Space Shuttle Flights

August 3, 2011 News of the Day, Places of Interest No Comments
Night Space-Shuttle-Launch Photo from the Internet

Night Space-Shuttle-Launch Photo from the Internet

As you all know by now, the Space Shuttle has had its last flight, that is unless something changes in the future.  Thousands of people have lost their jobs, and business that supported the space program have had to close down.  And an era that most of us grew up with is now over.  I grew up in Houston, and when I was older I lived for several years in a neighborhood directly across from the main entrance of the Johnson Space Center in TX.  In high school, many of my classmates’ parents worked for NASA, since we were located in the south part of Houston, not far from the Space Center.  Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when the astronauts landed on the moon, just as we can remember where we were and what we were doing with John F. Kennedy was shot.

Now living in FL for the past 25 years, we were fortunate to see several of the shuttle launches, one at night from the Kennedy Space Center itself, a once in a lifetime experience.  Later on, we lived about 40 miles from the Space Center, and could see the launches from our home after the Shuttle cleared the tree line, then it flew towards our home’s direction, and on a clear day we could actually see the solid rocket boosters separate.  Last year, we moved a bit further north, so the drive down to the Space Center area was about 1 1/2 hours, but it was worth it.  The 2nd to the last Shuttle launch, Endeavor, we actually were in Titusville, sitting on the shore of the bay directly across from the launch pads.  Unfortunately due to the cloud cover rolling in, you could only see the launch for 22 seconds, but what a magnificent 22 seconds it was.

Endeavor Final Launch 05 16 11

Endeavor Final Launch 05 16 11

We braved the crowds for the last Atlantis launch, but this time we did not go as far as Titusville, due to the constant local news coverage telling us what a gridlock situation it was there.  Instead we opted for a small town just to the north that had a lovely park right on the waterway that goes past the Kennedy Space Center.  So we had a great view, although from a bit of a distance, but it meant so much to us to see history being made.  The Shuttle cleared the tower, and we could see the flame trail once it cleared the rooftops.  Again, the cloud cover cut our viewing time short, but just to know that we saw that magnificent sight one more time was awe inspiring.

I have included some photos here, some that we took ourselves and some that came off the internet.  Also, here is a link to the LA Times that had an article with a fantastic photo of re-entry taken from the International Space Station http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/07/atlantis-return-from-space-nasa-rick-perry-.html .  Also in this article from the LA Times, be sure and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a link to a YouTube video that someone took from Cancun in the early morning darkness of the Shuttle streaking across the sky heading home one last time.

If you have an interest in the Space Program, NASA, and the Space Shuttle program, you will want to visit the NASA website at www.nasa.orgwhere you will find a wealth of information, amazing photos and videos for you and your children to see and learn about.  Also, if you are ever in FL you may want to take a side trip to the Kennedy Space Center for the tour.  However, now that the Shuttle program is over, I’m not sure how it will affect the visitor tours, so you best check their website or call ahead.  We had been out there several times, and it truly is a wonderful and informational trip for young and old alike.

Atlantis Final Launch 07 08 11

Atlantis Final Launch 07 08 11

Now you can visit the Shuttle at museums around the country.  The most impressive air museum we have been to is the Smithsonian Air Museum located at Dulles airport just outside of Washington, D.C. 

So we bid farewell to the Space Shuttle program and wonder what will the future hold.  Will America step up to the plate to be the best in the quest for space exploration?  Where will future generations take us?  To galaxies beyond our current comprehension?  Will space travel one day be as common for the every day citizen like traveling across the US or across the globe to foreign countries that we do today?  Whatever the future holds for us, I don’t think it could ever be replace by those first trips in a rocket:  Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle program and the first 7 astronauts that had the “Right Stuff” to be brave enough to be those first pioneers to venture into space, a place that once was only in our dreams and fantasies.

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