My inner geek exploded!
I bore witness to something early this morning that I’ve never seen before and can pretty much guarantee that I’ll never see again. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
I was six and a half years old when the first Space Shuttle went into space. It was the end of my first-grade year. I have no recollection of that day. In fact, I paid little attention to the whole program until that crisp January morning when I was 11.
I remember looking east at the horizon, wondering if I’d catch a glimpse of the horror that was unfolding in the skies. At 11, I wasn’t completely aware that my horizon was actually just a few short miles behind me. I was in Arizona that day, in the midst of a move from Houston, Texas to a suburb of Los Angeles. We went to the Grand Canyon and all around us was a somber aura. Looking back, I was probably one of the only people my age who didn’t see it on television as it happened. I actually didn’t see the images of the explosion until we managed to get to a hotel room later that night.
I also remember almost exactly a year before our daughter was born, my husband allowed me to sleep in that Saturday morning. When I saw the TV images, I asked my husband why they were talking about the Challenger again when the anniversary had already passed a few days before.
“That’s not the Challenger,” was all he needed to say.
Eight years later, I now live in the Little Rock area, working overnights at the state-wide newspaper. Knowing I wouldn’t have many chances left, I did some online searching to see when (if any) opportunities would arise to see either the Endeavor or Atlantis in the night sky. I found a link on Space.com that told me that I only had a space of two hours until I would be able to seize that opportunity! And so, for the next two hours, I watched what I could via an App on my Iphone and watched the Shuttle and the ISS dance together from the lower NE horizon, under me, and then to the lower SW horizon. I watched them approach view in the SW horizon through my phone and then, just as they crested into view, they disengaged and started traveling at approximately 17,000 MPH. I rushed to the conference room window in my office and there, in the center of the sky was the bright light. The time was 3:47 a.m.
“Oh my God, it’s beautiful!” I exclaimed.
I tried to take the elevator down, but it was too slow for my liking, as I knew I hadn’t much time. And so, I rushed down the 3 flights of stairs, hoping to catch a glimpse before it dipped below the NE horizon again. I motioned to the security guards to follow me, as I rushed out the front doors.
“Wanna see something you’ll never get to see again? You have 10 seconds until it’s gone forever!” I said while opening the doors.
Both security guards followed me quickly and once outside, I located the unmistakable star-like trajectory. I pointed to it and said to the guards, “See that light on the building? See the star just to the left of it moving very fast?”
They both acknowledged seeing the moving star
“That’s a once in a lifetime experience. It’s something you’ll most likely never get to see again for the rest of your lives,” I told them. “That, boys, is Space Shuttle Endeavor.” Suddenly, I wasn’t alone in my Geek-splosion.
“Are you sure?” One asked. “Is it landing?” The other asked. “How do you know?” “Where is it going?” The barrage of questions from two men was almost humorous as they were obviously excited by what I was showing them.
I explained to them that the shuttle wouldn’t land for another 48 hours and that it had just moments before left the ISS. I also reminded them that it was the second to last mission. As Endeavor lands and the six men say their final good-byes, in the shadows, Atlantis will be put into place for the final Space Shuttle mission, ever; a.k.a STS-135.
We watched Endeavor streak across the sky for the next few moments in awe. And then, as quickly as it emerged, it was gone behind one of the buildings of downtown Little Rock. Forever.
Both of the guards thanked me profusely for inviting them outside to witness the event. I told them I thought they’d enjoy it and was happy to show them. I went back upstairs to finish my night’s work, gleaming from ear to ear. It was 3:49 a.m.
And so, this morning, I was proud to have borne witness to the close of a 30-year era. My heart felt proud in those few seconds. In a month, when Atlantis takes off and we watch the final launch of the Space Shuttle program I hope to have my daughter with me as we see it on the television. She’ll be finishing up her first-grade year, just as I was when the first Shuttle took off.