Launch Dreams

by Geoff on April 10, 2011

The final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29, 2011.  That afternoon, Space Shuttle Endeavour, the newest ship in the fleet, will rocket toward the International Space Station, beginning its flight on the same launch pad used by the first Space Shuttle launch almost 30 years prior (Columbia).  This mission will simultaneously showcase one of the world’s greatest achievements in science and engineering and bring us closer to the end of an era of human space travel marked by great national pride and ingenuity.

Space Shuttle Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour

I’ve always been a huge fan of the space program and have been particularly mesmerized by the Space Shuttle.  I was born in 1980, so the Space Shuttle program has been the flagship of NASA (and human spaceflight in general) all my life.

I have memories of launches from when I was very young.

  • I remember seeing the footage of the Challenger’s tragic separation on January 28, 1986, which was also my brother’s birthday.
  • I remember reading and cherishing an edition of the Weekly Reader that focused on the Hubble Space Telescope, launched aboard Discovery in April of 1990.
  • I remember getting access to a satellite feed of a mission around 2000 and being excited to watch spacewalk footage live.
  • I remember hearing the news of Columbia’s destruction on February 1, 2003, as I was in my car headed to a day of set building with a local community arts program.  I remember entering the building and asking if those already there had heard the news.
  • I remember the return to flight mission of Discovery in July 2005 that moved forward the space program and demonstrated the tenacity and dedication America’s space workers have shown for over half a century.

I have continued to closely follow shuttle missions, recognizing the many “lasts” occurring along the way:  the last flight not docking with the International Space Station, the last mission to Hubble, the last night launch, etc.

However, I have never witnessed a launch in person.  This has been my goal.  As the Shuttle program has begun to wrap up, I have become determined to see a launch in some way – whether that was from a viewing area or from some spot 50 miles away from the launchpad.  One way or another, I was going to see a launch.

NASA Tweetup (image from NASA)While sitting in a meeting on Monday, March 21, 2011, I received an email from NASA headquarters that I had been selected as one of 150 people to attend the official NASA Tweetup for the launch of STS-134, Space Shuttle Endeavour.

A week or so earlier, I had entered my name into consideration to be randomly drawn to attend the NASA Tweetup for this launch.  I had entered for a couple of these events in the past, but had never been selected.   Needless to say, I was and remain elated!  Not only was I going to see a launch, but I was now going to see a launch from the press area at Kennedy Space Center, the area by the iconic, large countdown clock!

Some details about the Tweetup… As I said, NASA gives all attendees access to view the launch from the press area.  Additionally, the Tweetup group is taken on tours and given opportunities to hear astronauts and other NASA workers speak.  In prior launch tweetups, attendees were able to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building and actually visit the launch pad (within 200-300 yards of the shuttle, at least) the night before launch as the Rotating Service Structure is rolled back, revealing the Shuttle, it’s external tank, and the solid rocket boosters as they sit on the launch pad, perched for their ride the next day.

Yes, this sounds cheesy, but this is a dream come true for this space and Space Shuttle fan.  On April 29, I will get to witness the launch of one of the Space Shuttles that have represented the ultimate in exploration and spaceflight all of my life.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Krissy April 10, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Doesn’t sound CHEESY at all!!!!!!!! I can’t wait for the NASATweetup!

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john Richards April 11, 2011 at 1:09 am

not cheesy in the least. enjoy this momentous occasion.

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geoff April 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thanks for the comments, Krissy and John!

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Evelyn Criner April 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

Geoff, I am excited for you, hope to watch it on TV, will be thinking of you. Later, love, Aunt Evelyn

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