By now you’ve probably heard that the final Space Shuttle launched on Friday.
And if you’ve followed my blog over the last year, you know that witnessing a Space Shuttle launch has been a goal I’ve been struggling to accomplish for just as long. I’ve been to Florida three times in a desperate attempt to complete this goal.
Before I’d even departed for my first trip to Florida, NASA announced that the Shuttle launch was postponed. I tried to cancel our flight but wasn’t able to so I decided to go anyway and enjoy my time in Florida. I only had a couple of days before I flew back home so I spent a day at Disney World and one at Sea World. I was able to knock Goal 99 off the list, so at least the trip wasn’t a complete loss.
My next trip to Florida was a few months ago for the launch of Endeavour. I was confident everything would happen as scheduled. After all, President Obama and Gabrielle Giffords were there … NASA couldn’t delay the launch with so many prominent people there! But about two hours before lift-off, the launch was scrubbed. This time I ‘d decided to drive to Florida (all the way from Minneapolis.) Now I’d just have to turn around and drive back home without accomplishing a damn thing.
And last week I began a three-day drive from Denver to Titusville for the final launch of Atlantis (and the last launch of the Space Shuttle program.) The weather forecast predicted a 70% chance that the launch wouldn’t happen and the night before the launch, lightning struck a water tower 515 feet from the launch pad, causing concern that the Shuttle might have sustained some sort of damage.
Things weren’t looking good.
The next morning, the sky was overcast with only a few small spots of blue. I checked Kennedy Space Center’s Facebook page to make sure the launch was still go, and it was … Titusville, here I come!
My ticket was for the Hall of Fame, which is about 11 miles from the launch pad. It might not have been the greatest place, but it was still good enough. I was just happy to finally see a launch with my own eyes, even if it was from a distance. The countdown clock ticked away the minutes and my excitement grew. A few minutes before lift-off, Houston announced that the weather conditions were acceptable. The crowd began to cheer and clap. It was going to happen! But thirty seconds before lift-off, they stopped the countdown.
My heart sunk.
All I could do was wait … and hope.
A minute later, the all-clear was given, and the clock began to tick down the final seconds.
In the distance there was a huge flash of light, and smoke rolled across the ground. The fire and smoke lifted into the sky before disappearing above the clouds a few seconds later. Then the rumble of the Shuttle swept over us. Finally I’d accomplished my goal of witnessing a Space Shuttle launch. It only took a year of trying and three trips to Florida to make it happen. I guess it really is true that if you don’t quit, you can’t fail.
Looking back at all the time, energy, and money I’ve put into making this happen, I’m excited to have accomplished this goal on the final launch of the Shuttle program. It’s a moment in history and I was a part of that history.