Tuesday, April 17, 2012
There it is.
The final flight of the Shuttle program.
My childhood was spent following the people and technology that were responsible for this era of space flight. My dad is a literal rocket engineer and we always had the tail of the Shuttle in our sights as we moved from Marshall Space Center in Hunstville, Alabama, to the dry lake beds of Edwards Air Force Base in California, with stops in between across the country. (link to image source)
All in pursuit of manned space flight in rockets designed to look like planes.
It was the Shuttle that took my family, with its deep southern roots, to the East Coast and then to the West. It was the Shuttle that gave me a childhood soaked in Southern California sunshine. It was the Shuttle that necessitated my attending three different high schools scattered across the country as we moved from place to place. It was the Shuttle that defined much of our family life and lore.
It was the apex of my dad's career in engineering. It was the dominating image of the years I lived in my parents' home.
Bittersweet to see it end. Blended with a lot of pride.
Pride that my dad left the red dirt farm of Mississippi to pursue his education that led him to the heights of rocketry. Pride that my mom was willing to leave the South and follow my dad in his formula~mathematics~physics soaked dreams of travel to the stars. Pride in the incredible men and women we met along the way, those who designed the Shuttle, those who built the Shuttle, those who flew the Shuttle.
And, yes, those who died aboard the ill-fated Shuttles of Challenger and Columbia.
I stand awed that the men and women who pepper the flavor of my childhood memories are those who could stand in a field on a starry night and not just wonder at the heavens, but could think of ways to navigate them.
So to the Shuttle program...
And to my mom and dad who chased it...
Thank you for giving me a childhood sprinkled in stardust and frosted with visions of flight. For a childhood spent stomping across dry lake beds to watch such a wonder descend from the skies. For a childhood with soccer coaches and neighbors and friends who flew and designed and talked and debated and dreamed.
Your legacy has given me a heritage of sailing the cosmos, a priceless thing to ponder in my heart.