My experiences with the Space Shuttle have been vivid, if not a bit distant. I have been hooked with fascination for decades. In fifth grade I did my science project on this new vehicle for space exploration. For years I have studied the details of each mission. Seconds after every launch I run out into my driveway to watch the billowing trail (or the tiny orange flame at night) off in the distance. I sat by the side of Bayshore Blvd. in my TR-6 and watched Challenger’s plumes of exhaust corkscrew into tragedy in 1983. From Enterprise to Endeavour, I have promised myself, “One day I’ll see one up close and in person.” But various scheduling conflicts, the threat of scrubbed launches, and several weaker excuses kept it from happening – until Friday.
In the afternoon Aaron and I drove to Titusville, ate Chinese food and walked a half-mile to the point where Cheney Highway dead ends at US Hwy 1. From that vantage you can look directly across the water to see the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building and both shuttle launch pads.
At 7:38 p.m. the Space Shuttle Atlantis left the earth right on time. With video rolling and the camera clicking, we cheered with thousands that stood along the shore. As my five-year-old and I witnessed our first launch together, I finally made good on a promise I made to myself a long time ago. Aaron turned to look up at me, smiled and said, “This is awesome, Dad.” He took the words right out of my mouth.