End of an Era

End of an Era

I just watched Space Shuttle Atlantis make its last journey into space.  Other than a small delay to verify that the vent cap on the launch tower had retracted properly, it was a beautiful, perfect launch… a fitting way to finish off a storied history.

STS-135

Atlantis mid-launch, STS-135

Thirty years.

I remember being so excited when the first orbiter was called Enterprise… my father and I watched Star Trek religiously every Saturday and Sunday at 5pm on KTLA.  I remember gathering around the television as a child, my mother hushing my two younger brothers, as we watched the Columbia launch for the very first launch.  It was thrilling, and I was as excited then as I am sad now.

And now I’ve seen the last one go up.  It was a powerful, moving experience, one I know I’ll remember as well.

I’m actually fighting back tears.  The shuttle was a monumental achievement, and though I’m well aware of the reasons behind the program’s retirement, I feel like we’ve lost something important.  The shuttle wasn’t just a hunk of metal and plastic and ceramic that flew into space; it was a symbol of romance and adventure, like the great sailing ships or the lone cowboy riding the range.  It was a ship straight out of science fiction, and it put us one step closer to the Millennium Falcon and the Enterprise; proof that we, as humans, could take fantasy and turn it into reality, push the boundaries of our own world.

Last night I heard an interview on NPR with a couple of the shuttle astronauts – ex shuttle astronauts – and the Firehose of Creativity turned on.  I wrote a sci-fi piece about the end of another shuttle program – this one on Mars – and it heavily parallels today’s reality.  Like all creative outlets, emotions are fuel, and the stronger the emotion the stronger the burn.  Obviously I’m still on fire.

 

 

Update: The shuttle has landed. That’s all she wrote, ladies and gentlemen. :(

2 Comments

  1. Anthony,
    Were you here in Florida when the last shuttle went off? I too was so sad. Ive worked there and have had to say good-bye to alot of folks that are wonderful people who have worked there for over thirty years. I would have taken you on the base had I known you were here…..
    Your feeling have been shared by many. My husband still works there for now, but he too has shed tears this week. What was once a bustling base of proud folks is now like a ghost town of metal …. very very sad.

    • I wasn’t there, no, sadly. Watched it on line. I didn’t know you and your husband worked there… I should share the story I wrote with you, I think you’d both enjoy it.

      I’ve watched the space program my whole life. I’m watching the rise of corporate space programs with great interest, too… hopefully the people who once worked for NASA can find a place in the private sector as it opens up.

      Speaking of which, I *did* go watch the 3rd flight of Spaceship One, where they won the X-prize.

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