More than a Shuttle Launch.

photo by Sandy Walker

Today, marked the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor.  For many people, this is a “so what” kind of moment, for many others it’s a “ooohh and ahhhh” thing, but for a lot of people here on the space coast in Brevard County, Florida, it’s a little emotional.  You see, the shuttle here, isn’t just an object that gets people into space.  It’s almost a culture, space culture.  We’ve lived and breathed it for so long, that the moon dust has settled in our brains and left an indelible mark.  The beginnings of the space program are here, and now the ends as well.  The reasons our parents live here (if you’re my age) probably has something to do with space, and the beach, in reversible order.  If it weren’t for the space program we’d still be just a dot on the Florida map.

So today, watching the shuttle go up with my little kids, I reflect on the 30 years I’ve watched them go up, first with my parents, sometimes with my grandparents, with friends, at school, and now with my kids.  It’s a tradition.  A tradition lost.  So now, I can only imagine, as my neighbors lose their jobs, the driving force of our local economy is flying into memory, and many people are left wondering what now, I think the shuttle program is much more than just space flight around here.  It’s who we are as a collective whole.  It’s what we sat around and discussed, and now it’s nearly gone.

I imagine in a few years, the conversations will be something like what I had while waiting to have my tires changed up at Ray’s Tires on Merritt Island.  I talked to this old guy about the Apollo program. Found out he was a friend to many of the “original” astronauts, heard about the beach house parties, the space race, the tragedies, and the tremendous wins.  I have to wonder, is there gonna be anyone around here like that in 30 years?  I don’t know. But I do know, this last launch, if it happens, is gonna be something to remember.  A little piece of history flying in space, and a big piece of a lot of peoples lives.

3-2-1 and I’m done.

More about this subject:

Inside the VAB

Space Trivia

I’ve devoted this whole week to space, so make sure you check the homepage!

80 thoughts on “More than a Shuttle Launch.

  1. I live on the west coast, and always thought it would be cool to see a space launch in person. Probably won’t happen now. Good bye to a chapter of history…I hope there’s something cool waiting around the corner.

    • Me too! The Ares was going to be neat, it was built and everything. I guess we’ll just be waiting for something new now!

  2. It is certainly a turning point in American culture — and I think it’s one that’s largely going ignored in the media. I’m sorry for the devastation to your community.

    Thank you for bringing it to our attention. That’s a stunning photo!

    • Thanks! It is a turning point isn’t it. I’m not sure where it’s turning toward, I only hope it’s taking us somewhere new and great by any means we can get there.

  3. Great post. I guess anyone with an interest in space travel will have an opinion on the end of the shuttle programme, but it’s interesting to hear from someone who lives in their shadow 24-7…

    • Shadows are for people standing under it, I was in it, like most people around here. Thanks for reading my post!

  4. Same waves of emotion coming from mission control back here in Houston. I was caught off guard by how emotionally I responded to the launch this morning. We’ve got the moon dust in our brains and hearts here, too, and watching this program come to an end is just awful.

    • Strange feeling isn’t it. It’s really a part of people who live around it. I look at my family, and the majority of my male relatives have worked out there, and I even did too for a short time. The memories of space camp, open houses, walking onto the landing strip, watching the shuttle piggyback fly over my house… it’s a little crazy to think it’s all over. Thanks for the comment! I’m glad I wrote this. The next launch will be the worst. I fully expect to tear up and cry a little. I was born in 1980, my dad has worked out there till last year, so the space program has really been a part of my entire life.

    • I guess there are many different prespectives, but I think that the end of this era might be the smartest move toward more responsible spending. I know we could have used the 450 million we spent this morning on something much more important. It’s only my opinion but I’ll be happier knowing our money is no longer going up in smoke.

      • Well when it comes to budgets every cent counts, even the cup of coffee you bought at the store this morning makes a difference in your budget. I did read the article and I did not find the argument compelling, there are no substancial developments from space exploration that benefit our lives. Basically we spend the money because we want to remain the leaders in space exploration, and withhold a “were better than you” reputation. No matter how small the price is in the mix of things its not immediatly beneficial to our society and therefore should be cut along with many, many other things. I like going to the movies just like you enjoy watching the shuttle launch, but realistically I don’t have the money to and neither does our government. I realize this conversation was not your intent in this post but it truly is a mere reality, we need money and we should be happy we are finally making neccessary cuts.

      • We agree that budgets are necessary and that the spending is out of control. However, it is important that we continue to advance technologically, to better understand our world, and to explore. If we don’t do these things, we don’t move forward, and will fall behind the rest of the world and eventually we’ll collapse.
        There are substantial developments from space exploration, despite your belief that there are not. From improvements in farming to the invention of Velcro. Here’s a better description of just a few of those http://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/benefits.html
        BTW- i don’t drink coffee lol

      • Velcro, theres an important development, lol …. as for crops, weve been growing them for thousands of years with no problem, growing them in a confined environment is what nasa has investigated, and because we are not living on mars, it isn’t necessary research. I’m not saying that they have made no contributions but it’s nothing we couldn’t have lived without. Satelight communication is of the most important and it can be done without human envolvement, its time to move on from the moon walk, and get back to basics or we will fall as a result of being broke, not lacking in technology. However this is the end of my arugment, I’ll agree to disagree here I guess.

      • WOW… Do you really not know all the things you enjoy that are a direct cause of the space programs?

        Almost every aspect of our daily lives have been changed by the space programs. The simple reason for this is because the space programs push the envelope of technology. Any time the edge of technology is pushed and this tech is made available to the public for free, everyone benefits. You personally benefit from: better computers, velcro, highly efficient insulation for homes and cars, post-its, water conservation, food conservation, hydroponics, advances in science, amazing images of what is happening in space, greater refinement of science in almost any area, your weather forecast, military defense, monitoring the health of the planet, monitoring hazards from the sun, transportation advances, materials advances, healthcare advances, advances in fuels, advances in power sources, fuel efficiency, advances in entertainment, advances in communications, advances in mapping, and on and on…

        Quite frankly, if you don’t like all this then you should go live in a 3rd world country and throw your computer away.

        The irony of it all is that though the shuttle is going away, the president has elected to spend more on the space program. Not less…

      • There are two problems with your post:

        1. We need a way to get people into space. We are falling behind by not having that capability and I am worried it could become a problem from a military standpoint.

        2. Space exploration and science missions are vital for learning new things and developing new technologies. Start with this link: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/527945main_345978main_Shuttle_spinoffs.pdf, and go from there if you are interested. Just look at the artificial heart and the treatments for the sick kids and tell me that money wasn’t well spent.

        Disclaimer: I work for NASA.

  5. I am grateful for the memories that I have of the shuttle program. I watched Challenger in 2nd Grade from Pine Crest Elementary school in Ms. White’ class. I watched the back to flight and the first flight with Endeavor as the replacement. It is a sad day to know this is the end of something that has been a steady constant.

    • Oh I know! I was in kindergarden here on Cocoa Beach, and we walked to the beach that day to watch. I’ll never forget the moment the teachers realized what happened, and the parts washing up on the beach later.. Crazy story we were part of!

    • The last one for Endeavor. There is one shuttle left, and one launch planned. That will be the final launch. I’m not sure it will happen though, most of the workforce has already been laid off, and it takes a lot of people to get these things in the air!

  6. I’m sorry to hear how hard it is hitting home down in the Titusville area. I’ve been down the the Cape a few times, managed to catch the mission that carried Galileo into orbit, and it was a magnificent sight. Hopefully we’ll find the money and the determination to get a follow-on to shuttle flying in the near future. Good luck to all the folks who did their jobs and got the ‘birds’ off the pad.

  7. Well, despite being thousands of miles away from you, I can’t say but I may have had the same emotions…
    I’m Syrian, now living in Dubai, UAE, and I was raised on the space race stories since the day I was born, though I was leaning more towards the other side back then, but as the cold war reached to an end, and the years passed, I got more attached to what has become an international collaboration, and watched the US shuttles taking off one by one, wishing that someday I’ll witness the launch in person… But maybe it’s too late now…

    I can say I was lucky today to escape work for a couple of minutes, and follow Endeavor live on NASA’s HD/Sky News broadcast, I held my breath as I watched Endeavor ascend into space, wishing that the launch goes smoothly and safely… I truly wish I was there…

    It is going to be a huge loss to everyone, to you, the good people of Brevard County, and to the whole world; as we see our governments burning loads of money in wars and corrupt deals instead of supporting a most needed research, while we, the people, waste whatever is left of our money on trendy useless junk and pointless “upgrades”, leaving nothing to our children but a pile of dusty polaroids on a deserted launchpad, and a confused dream of escape beyond these polluted skies…

    I’m all hopes that this is just a temporary rest of the space program, hopefully the coming years would see a fast growing strong economy, coming up with a new, more affordable technology that would get the shuttles back on their “feet”, maybe then I’ll fly to Florida with my own son, when I have one, and show him a dream come true…

    God bless Jamie, and guard them astronauts in our space…
    H.Q.

  8. I would like to have this post in my blog.
    I have a blog in Portuguese, about things that I see in USA.

    Thanks.

  9. It’s hard for me to believe that the shuttle era could ever be over. I know there are still supposed to be initiatives ongoing but it almost just feels like we’re giving up on the dream of space flight. And I can’t imagine what it’s like there in Florida right now… even having never seen a shuttle launch myself (though I did see a landing when I lived in Utah), I feel like we as a people are losing something vital.

  10. Great blog! Thanks for sharing this perspective with us and it’s so awesome you got to share this with your kids. It is a sad to think what will happen to the people who have lived and breathed this program for so many years.

    I’m on the west coast and have made three attempts to see a launch attempts to see a launch, each of which ended in disappointment for us. I’m counting on seeing STS-135 lift off and will put my life on hold to make that happen.

  11. My parents lived in Barefoot Bay in Brevard County for years – we watched more than a few shuttles (often at some insane time in the wee hours of the morning) launch during that time. I understand your concerns and I share them – not sure we can do much though when something naturally comes to its end. Best of luck to the Space Coast whatever is your destiny next!

  12. Pingback: More than a Shuttle Launch. (via Swamped) « English Warrior

  13. It is sad to see this chapter of America’s space program come to an end. One can only hope that another, more exciting chapter, in the book, of America’s Space Program, will soon begin, to be written.

    I forsee a leaner NASA, using allot of automation, and robotics; however, manned space flight is not over with, by a long shot. It may take on allot of different forms, but it will be carried on. In spite of our budget woes, there is too much, to be gained by America, to scale the program back, too far.

    I live just north, of the Space Coast, and have enjoyed seeing the shuttle launches too. They will be missed. I believe America will move on, to a new frontier, in space exploration, and space programs. The future of space exploration is not dead, by any means. We have barely scratched the surface, of the vast frontier, we call outter space!

    Be Well!

    Army Veteran

  14. Watching the launch this morning brought tears of pride to my eyes, as the launches always do. Only one more to go 😦
    This is a great capture.

  15. Pingback: More than a Shuttle Launch. (via Swamped) « ahandfulofwonders

  16. Those last 30 or so years were really a golden age – of science and technology. It’ll be a long time before we have that sort of talent (in science and engineering), that sort of drive and ambition (the astronaut corps and their army of supporters).

  17. I really hope they will do something next… instead of nothing at all. I would have loved to get to see one go up in person!

  18. Great post…one of my favorite things living in Melbourne was watching the shuttle launches. I will always remember the re-entry of one of them coming over the ‘glades while checking on ghost orchids. a big *BOOM* shook me for awhile!

  19. To this day I would give anything to go up into space. It saddens me to know that for a while at least, Americans will no longer launch themselves into the heavens. I was born in 1980. I grew up with the shuttle, and for me the shuttle program symbolized hope, dreams, and human potential. I remember standing outside of my house, in Austin, TX, watching the shuttle streak across the evening sky as it re-entered the atmosphere on its way to a safe landing at the Cape. I only saw this happen twice. These remain among my fondest memories. The world loses a little magic for me with the retiring of the shuttle program.

  20. power in the hands of the unrighteous quickly becomes evil

    aint no free techno-rides to heaven — sorry, mr and mrs pharaoh

    ray

  21. I am crazy about the launches. And what’s so cool, is from my backyard you can see the shuttle from pretty early after launch to it disappears. I’m 40 years old, and it still makes me feel a sense of awe when I watch it. I find it one of the most beautiful sites! Of course, I AM a dork…..just warning you~

    AJ

  22. How privileged I was to know there was a launch by the rumbling of the lift off engines, the pictures in the house hanging askew, or walking out of our school building…not in response to a fire drill, disaster drill, bomb threat or such…but to view another launch from our school in Cocoa Beach. I am saddened that our involvement in the space program will not take a leading stance in the future. So are we supposed to be excited about our future partnerships, putting political bias aside? I wish you in your own way may influence the fruition of future launches. Congratulations on your FP post. You’re right about the culture…it was a can-do attitude by talented, intelligent…the best of our engineers that met the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and ultimately shuttle goals. I ask, can we not devote a similar effort to solving our energy crisis? Really now? If we can accomplish all this, can’t we be energy independent within a decade as JFK challenged with the Apollo mission. I am so PLEASED you are FP’d. Your young voice is being heard.

  23. 3-2-1 perhaps, but never a zero. A culture that is based on living life beyond the horizon has a lot more to give and teach yet.

  24. Pingback: Rock and Roll, Endeavor. Thanks for the memories. | Sapphire and Rain

  25. It will be so sad to see the last one liftoff and return. A piece of America will be only a memory. I still get goose bumps and shed a tear then they liftoff. Great post, Jamie!

  26. Amen. Couldn’t have said it better myself. (And for a Duck to agree with a Beaver, you must have done a good job. 🙂 )

  27. It’s just another example of the Community Organizer tearing down another piece of the American dream. 2012 will hopefully be the end of his “change” and we can get our space program revitalized.
    Congrats on FP

  28. It is emtional for me too. My father helped build the Saturn V among other things in the Apollo Programme. Later, I watched the Columbia land with him. He was always working on plans for a settlement on the moon. A few weeks ago, he died. Now the shuttle flights are over.
    The dreams of space are not!
    Good luck to all of you, and lots of future!

  29. So, there it goes the last bridge between home and space station . Even American astronauts and equipment depend on Russian rocket now to get there.

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  32. Thank you for this insight into your community.

    Here in distant Singapore, it was a really minor news, but thanks to your post I realize how deeply it has affected so any people.

    Space programs are necessary not just for Americans, but for humanity as a whole, because they take technology so many steps further…and the fact that space exploration has not yielded concrete monetary benefits yet, does not mean it never will.

  33. Really heartfelt thoughts there, nice post.

    In 5th grade in 1980 we watched the very first time the Space Shuttle [Columbia] ever blasted off into orbit. It was replayed over and over, as it had been many years since the last manned flight.

    Did you know that the very first Space Shuttle flight carried only 2 people? Over time they kept increasing the number to the maximum 7, and then more recently the average 5 or 6.

    Personally I love commercial aviation and would probably love space flight as well. Even so, with the Space Shuttle the issues of age and safety are real. There will probably be human space flight again, how soon it’s tough to say.

  34. Hi there,

    I am a Spanish person living in the UK who has just returned from our holiday in Florida over the Easter period, and what a holiday it was. Though this “space” culture is totally new to us, I was very taken by the Kennedy Space Center and we were able to get a good insight into the different missions, shuttles, etc. We also heard about the budgetary cuts and how it was all coming to an end. It is terribly sad, but at the same time something has to give. I don’t think this is the end, however. When the economy recovers and it will, hopefully it will all start again and continue where it left off.
    If you wish to read my account of our wonderful holiday and its highlights you can go to my blog http://www.anewcreation33.wordpress.com

  35. They’ve known the day was coming the shuttles would end 1 more flight now. We have
    no replacement we’re foot dragging on something that should have been already done.
    Playing catch up as usual.

    • The shuttles are outdated, no question. However, we did have a replacement. The ARES was built and had even been test launched. Now it’s wasted money so that we can pay Russia to ride on their equipment.

  36. Pingback: Space Trivia! | Swamped

  37. I grew up in the Antelope Valley, California….near Edwards AFB so grew up around the aerospace/aircraft world. I worked for NASA in the mid 80’s at Edwards in the Shuttle Recovery program and saw many landings. We grew up hearing sonic booms over the dry lakebed but the Shuttle booms were special. I got to know the astronauts that were assigned to the landing site during a mission. Mike Smith, Pilot on the Challenger, used to come sit at my desk and talk about his upcoming mission. We had no thoughts of the terrible tragedy that would take place. I totally loved being part of the program, even though it was for a short time. I got to spend time inside both the Discovery and Challenger before they were flown off to Kennedy Space Center aboard the 747. I got to work with some of the greatest people ever from Florida, Houston and Edwards – NASA and the many contractor companies. The highlight of my NASA experience was to watch a launch from the roof of the control building at KSC. I was lucky enough to have a VIP pass provided by a dear friend and still keep the photo which I took on my desk. That was 1985 and I agree with many comments….every launch still brings a tear to my eye and lump in the throat. This is the end of an amazing era, full of triumph and tragedy. And I look forward to the next generation of space exploration and travel, whenever it is revealed.

  38. Pingback: Launching the Shuttles | Swamped

  39. wellspouse: “There are two problems with your post:”

    I’m definitely on your side about space exploration. But I think NASA is falling behind the curve in that area. We’ve done a few things (I’m not up with really current events, except that there will be no more Shuttle launches), but the day Obama told us (July 2010, though Charles Bolden) that NASA’s mission was “to “re-inspire children” to study science and math, to “expand our international relationships,” and to “reach out to the Muslim world. … Muslims is “perhaps foremost,” because it will help Islamic nations “feel good” about their scientific accomplishments”, that was the day NASA started to decline.

    Goal #1: laudable, but that’s what schools are for. Someone – anyone – should make the connection that the people who work for NASA, designing and building spacecraft, needed a lot of mathematics and physics to do their job. I’m not reassured that our schools are doing much in terms of science and math.

    Goal #2: I can probably sign on to that one, considering that the next steps into space are going to require international cooperation. Unfortunately, the countries most likely to have the resources to cooperate are unlikely to cooperate on any Earthly venture. China and Russia (perhaps in that order) are interested in getting there first with the most.

    Goal #3: [Almost] no comment. That’s a purely political aim, and furthermore, it’s not up to us to help other cultures “feel good about themselves”.

    Let me play “devil’s advocate”: It’s true that there have been tremendous benefits from the space program (everything from Tang to the artificial heart). But – couldn’t those things have been developed – perhaps more cheaply – if they had been the primary goal?

    Aside: I’ve been reading Robert Zimmerman’s excellent Leaving Earth. It’s a history of space exploration – almost all of which takes place from the 60s to the 90s, and much of which was done by the Russians. It’s a blow-by-blow account of people and politics, heroism and sacrifice, heartbreak and triumph.

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