We’re waiting… when will Space Shuttle Endeavor take its final journey into the skies? When will the crew blast off from Kennedy Space Center and race to the stars, meet up with the International Space Station and return home one final time? When will Endeavor land, tow to the VAB, be taken apart and sent to a museum to spend the rest of its life an attraction… when?
(To follow the launch & dates associated with Endeavor’s final mission, follow on PlacesAroundFlorida)
Having grown up in Illinois and watching most Shuttle launches on TV, I’ve always been like most of the country; proud of our space program, proud of these accomplishments, impressed with the Space Shuttle and mourned when we lost those brave men and women who touched the face of God.
But I never really “got it”.
Then I watched an early morning launch once as a teen from Walt Disney World and I was blown away. Another night launch from Central Florida and I was blown away. I’ve since seen two more from our home here in Central Florida and I was blown away. I was really blown away when I heard my first return sound barrier boom on the last Shuttle mission – shook the house and scared the jeepers outta me.
I’ve been to and love Kennedy Space Center.
And then I saw the people around me – the Floridians who are being touched in a very real way by the ending of the Space Shuttle program and I saw just how much this program has been a part of Florida for the last 30 years.
While we up north, to the west, to the northeast, around the world watch and are impressed, the people of Florida – Central and East – have been living Space Shuttle for all of those 30 years. Whether or not they actually worked on the project or just around it, Space Shuttle has been more than a distant impression on TV; its been their lives.
We were in Cocoa Beach two days before the April 29th launch. Everywhere you looked practically the excitement was building.
We had lunch on the dock along the Port Canaveral causeway at Grills, enjoying the day, when we heard a jet engine – soon one of the astronauts flying over our heads doing a “wing wave” to all of us on the ground. A couple more passes and he was gone.
Walking to the end of a pier, in the distance we spotted the two NASA ships that will be used to retrieve the solid booster rockets once they’ve splashed down.
Walk into a store and spot the Space Shuttle balloons ready for your family party. Step into Ron Jon Surf Shop and find the merchandise.
More than a mere rocket ship
Space Shuttle and the Space Shuttle program has meant more, been more to the people of Florida for the past 30 years than just a rocket ship. Its more than a job. Its more than the company down the street.
Soon it will be a mere memory.
Endeavor is still waiting to go up – under going a change in a motor to get her back into space.
Then back to earth and to a museum… a memory, a footnote in history…
When Endeavor goes up I hope you’ll take an extra moment to realize just what the Space Shuttle program has been and meant to our nation – and to the people of Florida. To all of us. To its place in history… and the future…