In less than 20 minutes, at 11:26 ET, the space shuttle Atlantis will launch for the last time, the last time, in fact, for any shuttle. The program has lasted thirty years, most of my life. I remember the tiny Columbia shuttle model with cargo bay doors that really opened that we had, probably in 1981. I remember watching STS 8 (1983), the Challenger, rise through the sky in the first night launch for the shuttle program, only a pillar of flame visible from the school field near our house where the town gathered to watch. A few years later I watched from a desk when it exploded, shortly after take-off.
Our children have been gathered around the computer, watching the live video feed with commentary complements of CNN and NASA. They watched the close out crew in the white room, making their last checks. Just before they left, one by one the crew held up signs to the mounted video camera. I should have recorded what they wrote, but I’m sure it will be recorded somewhere. Essentially it said, “on behalf of all of the people who have worked, designed, flown, etc., for the shuttle program, Godspeed Atlantis and God bless America”. I got teary-eyed.
Because they weren’t showing the inside of mission control I pulled up the launch sequence from Apollo 13, the movie, to show them. Watching it, I almost cried again. A reminder that nothing is certain.
Lord have mercy on the astronauts, their family and friends, and the thousands and thousands of people who have worked for this moment.
3 thoughts on “Godspeed Atlantis”
Godspeed indeed. It concerns me greatly that the shuttle program is ending with nothing ready to replace it. I regret we've lost the vision of the 60's push to the moon. Vividly remember standing in the backyard with my granddad and being able to see one of the early satellites go overhead — maybe Telstar? He was in awe, because he had helped build airplanes out of wood and silk in WWI.
Yes, it breaks my heart. After we landed on the moon and “won” the space race, it all started going downhill. Congress didn't see the point of continuing to explore when we had beat the Russians, so to speak.
Gene Cernan of Apollo 17 said in 1972, before leaving the moon, “And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.” That was almost 40 years ago and we haven't been back.
My little family is so sad about the ending of the shuttle program. It just doesn't seem right somehow… Godspeed Atlantis…
It's hard to hold back the tears.