A week ago I stood on the shore of the Turning Basin at Kennedy Space Center's launch Press Site and watched a Space Shuttle hurtle four Americans into space for the last time. NASA, as the Robert Brockway from Cracked so eloquently put it, had "strapped human beings to an explosion and tried to stab through the sky with fire and math" for the last time in the foreseeable future. Fourteen years ago I got to see Atlantis lift off, turning night into day, and solidifying my life-long and enduring love for space. It is a memory I have held ever since and will never forget. Although, as the years went by I wondered just how much of that memory had been fantasticalized (yes, I believe I made that word up) in my mind and how much was how it had really happened. Did the sound wave really shake you to the core when it hit? Was the emotion of watching a launch as strong as I remembered? Did a Space Shuttle launch really dare to challenge anyone to NOT love space travel?
On July 8, 2011 I not only got to witness history, but realized that a Space Shuttle launch really WAS everything I had remembered and held on to for fourteen years. There is something about seeing a plane-like ship, strapped to rockets that you can't turn off, light up the sky even in the daytime and make its way from right in front of you to orbit around earth in just a few minutes. As John Oliver put it on "The Daily Show", "That was objectively INCREDIBLE!"
I realize that the Space Shuttle itself is 30 years old and the design is closer to 40 years old. It needs replacing. We need something that can do more than just orbit Earth. We have made very little progress as far as space travel since we first stepped on the moon. (yes we built MIR, the Hubble telescope, & the ISS but those, while technological advances, were not space travel by humans. MIR & the ISS merely orbit the same celestial body we currently occupy) We not only have not sent humans back to the Moon since the 70s, but haven't ventured beyond Earth's orbit. Why not? Technology has advanced so significantly in the past 40 years that the lack of human exploration in our Solar System still baffles me. I am hoping that the leaning towards privatizing space travel will give Earthlings the kick we need to remedy this failing on our part.
With all that said, I will always have an eternal memory of getting to watch the Space Shuttle launch. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Although I definitely do not have the words to do justice to the launch, I also do not think a photo (or video for that matter) does it justice. However, here are a few more of my shots of my weekend with Atlantis and STS-135.