I came across a video this morning, posted by the Smithsonian Institution on YouTube entitled, “Space Shuttle Discovery Delivered to the Smithsonian.” It’s a wonderful video highlighting Discovery’s flyover of Washington, D.C., removal from the SCA, and the ceremony in which it was inducted into the National Air and Space Museum.
The video includes excerpts from several of the speeches that day, including one from the speech of France A. Cordova, Chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. Once the transfer document is officially signed, she remarks, “The Space Shuttle Discovery is now part of the national collection.” I’ve watched this video a couple of times this morning, and I tear up at that line. As I’ve said before, the Space Shuttle Program is the only space program I’ve ever known. I’ve grown up with it and lived through its triumphs and tragedies. Through the use of the internet and social media, I’ve been privileged to join a community of people interested in space travel. I was lucky enough to witness the launch of STS-131 in person in April of 2010.
I know the history of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I cherish the fact that humans have walked on the moon. I know how and why the space race occurred and I believe that it was a good thing for humanity. With that said, the only space program that I’ve experienced is the Space Shuttle. Whether on TV or the internet, I’ve followed missions and watched launches and landings. I remember exactly where I was both when I heard of the Challenger disaster and seventeen years later when I heard of the Columbia disaster. The Space Shuttle has been my space program and I truly treasure it. The end of the program has been coming for a while now, but the reality of it has just hit me.
Dr. Cordova’s remark that Discovery is now part of the national collection is true. She’s been retired and is no longer operational, but will be forever inspirational. I hope that Discovery will inspire others as much as she and the entire Space Shuttle program have inspired me. It makes me think back to the Brian Bassett cartoon from last year, What A Ride It’s Been.