As Friday approaches, so does the countdown to the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. For 30 years, the vehicle has launched(no pun intended) space exploration for this country.
For me and many of my family and friends the ending of this program has a great effect on us the most. Growing up on the east coast of Florida all of my life, I have witnessed many launches, met a few astronauts, and really got the chance to experience the program and it’s effect first hand. My father has been with the Space Center for 22 years-not directly working on the shuttle but setting up the facilities for viewing sites and dealing with press. A part of his job allows him to set up his camera and tripod to photograph every launch and every landing. Not only is he extremely lucky to be able to view the launches from only 3.3 miles away but he is always able to bring me to various events such as rollouts and launches.
Since I have a deep love for space and the shuttle program, I was begging my father for a car pass to the turn basin for this last launch, STS-135. Granted 750k people are expected to flock to Brevard to witness the final and historic launch. Being the amazing dad that he is-he surprised me with a pass about 2 weeks ago and I was ecstatic! But as I drove over the 528 bridge tonight, I felt a sense of sadness. At night the VAB is visible from the bridge and still to this day looks magnificent and I couldn’t help but tear up a bit. The Shuttle Program became an icon for Brevard, something we had unique over any other place in the world. It stimulates our economy when launch time comes around and brings many tourists(and terrible drivers) to the area. Not to mention employs many of our families and friends. A marvelous machine had such an impact on this area-it’s upsetting to see it retire.
With all things, endings bare new beginnings. This area is going to hurt after the program ends and many jobs will be lost. Being a family member of an employee for NASA and it’s affiliates is difficult as of late. Lay offs are have already begun and after this final launch they will make the largest lay off in years. I fear for my father and for my family. As an end draws near, keeping our heads up is important. We must maintain support of our area and our families.
On a lighter note..
I have a day to prepare my gear for launch day. I’m a littler nervous for weather-30% of a GO for launch on Friday which could result in a scrub. But like every space nerd, I am excited. No matter what happens in these next few months, we will always have the memories of the vehicle that woke us up in the middle of the night-Thanks, sonic booms-and the gleaming light racing towards the heavens above.