Wednesday morning, while getting ready for work, I put Spacevidcast’s youtube video of the STS-131 launch on my computer. I attended this launch in April of 2010 and was lucky enough to see Discovery take off from a mere 6 miles away.
It was an amazing experience. so, back to this morning, watching the replay while getting dressed. I was wandering around my room with the launch playing on my iPad. I was listening to the communication between Discovery and the ground as the shuttle went “uphill” as John Young would put it. Then I heard a call from capcom Rick Sturckow to Discovery saying, “Discovery, you are go at throttle up.” I literally ran across the room to look at the screen, to make sure that Discovery made it through the next several seconds without incident.
Think about it, the launch I was watching happened almost ten months ago and I saw it in person. I know that Discovery made it to orbit and had a very successful mission. I know that they landed safely at the conclusion of that mission. Even with that knowledge, I found myself running to the screen to make sure that Discovery got through the 73 second mark safely.
On January 28, 1986, I was in second grade. During a recess, I was playing on the playground and a friend came up to me and said, “the space shuttle exploded.” My first response was that he was testing me, to see if I would react… I said, “No, it didn’t, the Space Shuttle can’t explode.” He said, “yes it did, as it was launching this morning.” From there, the day becomes a big blur. The next thing I remember is being over at a different friend’s house in the evening working on homework. My mother was in the other room with my friends mother. The room we were in had a TV, which was tuned to the news. They were showing Challenger’s short flight over and over and over again. I’m sure that there were talking heads interspersed between the replays, but all I remember are the replays, over and over again.
In the past couple of years, my interest in space has grown again. I’ve become more aware of the time, energy, training, and effort that is put in to each Space Shuttle launch. I’ve learned more and more about the culture of NASA and how accidents like Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia happened. I’ve gained a wide array of friends who know a lot more about space than I do. I’ve very lucky in that regard.
My mind this morning is alternating between a shocked second grader, a father, a Space Tweep, and a citizen of the United States. Unsurprisingly, every part of me sees the value of space travel and knows that we need to go forward. We need to keep exploring and we need to learn more about the human race through travelling in space.
A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about the astronauts who lost their lives on January 27, 1967, January 28, 1986, and February 1, 2003 and how their sacrifice changed each of us…