Saturday, July 9, 2011

Watching Shuttle Atlantis


Standing beside the Countdown Clock at Kennedy Space Center, I watched Space Shuttle Atlantis, the final orbiter to launch from the United States of America, take to the heavens. She sparked, she smoked, she rumbled, she flamed, and then she disappeared into the clouds while thousands of onlookers gasped, cheered, cried, or simply had their own silent moment to ponder this event.

It's still sinking in. Both the "being right there" part and the "final shuttle launch" part. Thank you, NASA. Thank you so very much. Some of us get it.

Heather with Shuttle Atlantis
Dream. Come. True.

During the day, I saw too many American astronauts to track, four Canadian astronauts, CNN's Anderson Cooper, and Seth Green at NASA Tweetup. Kept my eyes open for Nichelle Nichols and Steve Wozniak, but missed them.

We joked with Elmo, asked questions of Lori Garver, met scientists and engineers galore in every direction, and also found time for a visit to SpaceX and some of the touristy things on Florida's Space Coast. Afterward? A kegger –- no kidding -– in the VAB where Jimmy Buffet played live!

STS-135 Launch
I still cannot believe I took this photograph.

I wisecracked on Twitter that the last time anyone saw this many reporters in one place, Paris Hilton was going to jail. I wish it was actually funny. One of the Kennedy Space Center employees mentioned that they received more press registrations for this launch than any other in the 30-year Shuttle program, topping only the 1998 flight of STS-95, where John Glenn returned to space.

My question? Why isn't every launch this well-attended and exciting? Why is Lindsay Lohan getting into trouble AGAIN worth more air time than the amazing things that this program has accomplished? I will never understand this.

Cape Canaveral
Where I WAS, rather.

I'm sorry there are no links in this post, and I haven't gotten my act or my brain together enough to speak coherently or create a photograph album. Perhaps for the next few days I will just share images and short thoughts, because there really is just too much to say about what this event meant to me… and what it means for our country.