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.
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.