Welcome Home, Atlanis

I ventured down to Brevard County, FLA a few weekends ago to visit a legend. It’s not a person but rather a man-made masterpiece. Housed in a 90,000 square foot building, Space Shuttle Atlantis found its forever home at the Kennedy Space Center in June of 2013.

On July 8th, 2011, Atlantis lifted off one final time bringing 30 years of the shuttle program to a close. I was lucky enough to be on site that day with space guru’s from all over the world. It was a pivotal moment in my life, it was the day I realized what I was most passionate for…space and photography.

Going to the exhibit was a big deal to me. I felt like a kid on Christmas! My family came with me and we were ready to see the legend up close and personal. We entered the exhibit by walking under a full-scale mock-up of the external tank and solid rocket boosters. I stood small under them gazing up at the forces that powered Atlantis to the stars. The sight will put you in awe but the best is yet to be experienced! The Atlantis exhibit is dedicated to the many men and women who were involved in the shuttle program. My family and friend’s family members contributed to the program and were a part of its 30 year journey. An incredible feature as you walk through the exhibit halls is seeing the quotes from these men and women. My heart rate increases as I walk through, knowing that the quotes on the wall lead to up to the orbiter. It was  so incredible walking through the exhibit that I won’t give any of the details away-you have to go see it for yourself to get the full effect! The moment the orbiter appears in my sight, I throw my hand over my mouth and start to tear up. She’s brilliant. Magnificent. She is grand. I walk in facing Atlantis’ nose and I am completely speechless.  Atlantis is tilted at an angle as if to be flying in space. Her payload doors are open, Canada arm extended. She is exactly how she should be, on display in her element. The lighting in the room changes and creates a mood so powerful that I couldn’t help but just stare at her. You could spend an entire day there. The exhibit has so much to see and do. After almost an hour on the top floor, I had to force myself down to the bottom floor where Atlantis’ underbelly is completely exposed.  The tiles that cover the bottom of the orbiter are in the same condition they were in when she returned home from her final journey.

Another note-worthy part of the exhibit is a touching tribute to the men and women whose lives were taken in the Challenger and Columbia accidents. A dimly lit memorial gives you a chance to remember that these men and women risked their lives for exploration. I took a few moments of silence with the memorial.

The exhibit is overall an incredible sight to see. Now I may be biased but even my not-so-space loving brother was in awe. I highly recommend all of my followers check it out! It’s a great way to honor an incredible space program! For more information on Atlantis and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex visit http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/ .

Atlantis

Nose to Nose.

Logo

Wing

Atlantis2

Up close to Atlantis

Dad

My father saw man land on the moon. This picture really shows his love of space exploration.

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Atlantis.

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Footprints on the Moon

On this day in 1969 two men ventured out of a small lunar module to step foot on a surface unexplored-the moon. The American public sat and waited by their television sets eager for the moment when the “Eagle” landed on the cratered surface. In the 60s, man took great risk to explore worlds that had never been explored before. The Apollo program proved to mankind that we can exceed the far reaches of our planet and go where “no man has gone before.”

It’s been forty-four years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I wasn’t around for the lunar landing but my father was 10 years old. He sat in his living room with his parents and his three siblings as Neil descended down the ladder to the moon’s surface. A nation held their breaths as he tested the ground beneath him. With one swift jump, Neil landed with both feet on the moon. He spoke the words as famous as the events themselves: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

My dad’s memory of the lunar landing remains vivid in his mind after so many years. The events inspired him to one day get a job with a contractor out at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His hopes and dreams were to one day see us go back to the moon, mars and beyond.  Growing up on the space coast of Florida inspired me to grow passionate for American space flight. I learned at an early age just how important it was to explore and adventure beyond our limits. What has Apollo 11 taught me? It has taught me that with perseverance and great courage anything is possible. Man was made to explore, adventure and discover the endless possibilities in life. I hope and dream that we are able to go back to the moon and planets beyond in my life time.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” President John F. Kennedy

moon

Daddy’s Girl

Ever since I was small, I had a slight obsession with cool things and I blame my father! Cool things including space, cars, and really great music. It started when I was about 4 or 5 and my dad would watch me while my mom worked. He would put on Star Wars and recite the majority of the lines. I was highly amused as I sat on the floor playing with my Hot Wheels cars and watching the genius George Lucas film play out before my eyes. My dad is a pretty cool dude. He is in his fifties but he doesn’t act it! He would give my brother and I new Hot Wheels cars almost every day-he is after all a collector.  One of the childhood memories that stick out to me the most with my dad is riding in his little red ’94 Mustang on the way to school listening to Pink Floyd and Queen. I guess that explains why I love Floyd so much..

My dad is a bit of a perfectionist and when I was younger I used to fear I wasn’t perfect enough. It wasn’t until high school that I realized my dad loved me no matter how flawed I was! He gave me my first camera at the age of 14 and suggested I take a photo class at school.

To say we are slightly similar is an understatement. On a good day you can catch us singing any Rush song at random, reciting lines from the Star Wars Trilogy-yes the original 3 because I am not a huge fan of the new ones-and having an intense photo “shoot off” which is basically my dad and I shooting our 7D’s and 50D’s at each other to see who can will give up first. We have always had common qualities not to mention a dimple every time we smile on the left side of our faces.

Our father-daughter relationship has gotten stronger since I have gotten older but since i have moved up to Jacksonville, his daddy-knows-best lectures have come down to phone calls and skype. It’s a change and I miss being able to just walk into the computer room at midnight and talk to my dad for hours about the impact of the space program.

Both my mom and dad have taught me a lot in my almost 23 years of life but being able to relate to my father in our right-brained ways has helped me grow into the weird and nerdy yet intelligent being I am today. I am proud to admit to my ways because of him. The late nights listening to music-you wouldn’t believe I am doing it now and it’s currently Rush-the  need to buy something “Star Wars” related because it’s probably the coolest movies ever, and of course random photography sessions in my living room that Judd gets to put up with now! I take pride in it. I did after all get my father’s legacy or initials inked on my foot in a film strip.

I love and admire my dad. He is an incredibly hard worker,one that will bend over backwards to get the job done. He has a passion for what he does including his photography. He inspires me. I would never have gone to photo school if it wasn’t for him telling me I would one day regret it if I did not go! Finally, he loves his family more than life itself. He has been with my mother since 1978. He should be proud to be a father of two grateful kids who work hard with him and my mother’s support.

Tonight, we had a late night talk about space and photography. It fulfills me knowing that if I ever wanted to talk nerd I can just pick up the phone or skype my dad. I know that one day he won’t be here the way he is now but I believe that is why God put Judd in my life-to indulge in the late night conversations about space and music. My dad will always be there whether it be in person lecturing or in spirit at a big interview. That’s why I dedicate this post to him. :)

Hanging out with Dad, I was about 2 or 3 here.

Revelations of Options.

Two weeks ago I stood at the turn basin at Kennedy Space Center to witness history. I spent 6 hours there talking to my father about his job and his coworkers. I photographed the final launch that morning and shared with everyone at the basin the emotion of an ending era. What I didn’t think would happen was to drive through the gates while leaving and think, “I could work for NASA one day, doing media, and I could drive through these gates every day. Like my dad, I could work for the nations space exploration headquarters.”

After 2 weeks of wondering why I felt so split down the middle about something I had no clue about I came to a revelation. I graduate in May. (hopefully) The new manned space flight program Orion is due to start testing liftoffs at the end of 2012. Granted jobs for direct affiliation with the program are few and far between with recent lay offs but I am sure by the fall of next year, there will be plenty of media jobs out at NASA.

If I am so passionate about my love for space and photography with a degree in Communications, why don’t I try and get a media job with them? It’s one in a few options for after college…but it would mean moving back to Brevard. That…is not what I wanted to do. But it certainly is an option.