Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome home, Atlantis. Farewell, Shuttle

All the photos on this page are from the NASA website:

Shuttle Atlantis touched down this morning at 5:58 EDT, bringing to an end the Space Shuttle program, after 30 years of flight.

I watched entranced, 42 years ago yesterday, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

As a child in grade school in the 60's, every Gemini and Apollo launch was watched on a TV wheeled into the room just for that purpose.  I was captivated by the space program, as so many of my generation were.  The space program was a ray of hope during the bitter decade of the 60's, and inspired me to study science and math, and go on to become an engineer.  

I recall holding my breath as Columbia landed for the first time, in 1981.   I watched dumbstruck as Challenger broke apart in 1986.

And I have been wholly amazed at the construction of the International Space Station.  Not only a marvel of engineering; not only like building a ship in the middle of the ocean from the keel up, but of the international cooperation between countries that only a few years ago were bitter enemies.

Interestingly, we cooperate better in space with former enemies and rivals, than we do within our own congress.

In space we speak a common language of committment, focus, dedication, and passion .  Surely this is a legacy that must be passed on to our children.  If we do nothing else as a country, we should inspire our children to dream beyond their horizons, to be passionate and focused and dedicated.  The space program brings out the very best in us, and shows us just what amazing things we can accomplish, when we work together.

Welcome home Atlantis!  Godspeed, NASA, on your next manned mission of discovery.  I hope the wait will not be too long.


  1. What a gloriously beautiful post. I so agree with you. I, too, am from the same generation and will sorely miss the manned space program. I remember it all in the 60's and through today. I remember getting up early in the early 90's to listen to mission control on my computer when missions were returning. I can't remember which one, but when it came down the Eastern US, I could hear the sonic boom all the way over to Cincinnati. It was thrilling to be listening to the conversation between the astronauts and mission control on the computer while hearing the boom.

    I remember listening live to wake up calls. I remember listening live while computer problems were discussed in the early days. Wow. It was all so cool. We Americans have a reason to be proud of our space program.

    Don't forget to vote! Perhaps we will get our space program back with a change in Washington.

  2. Thank you, Lois. We must be space kindred spirits.


  3. Beautifully and perfectly stated, Beth.

    Already a big fan of the space program when Neil Armstrong took those very first steps onto the moon (and I just this moment realized that the final shuttle landing was, basically, on its anniversary!), I was babysitting for three rowdy boys who had little interest in the event, and was fairly anxious at the possibility of missing the broadcast. However, I must have managed to get them occupied or perhaps directed their attention to the TV long enough, because I was able to watch and makes sketches of the descents down the ladder and onto the surface, one drawing even captioned with the now-famous "giant leap" remark. Your commentary reminded me of that evening, and prompted a similar deep emotional response.

    Like you, I hope for both a not-too-distant future with even greater exploration beyond the confines of our our planet, and that the international cooperation such endeavors require will also have an positive effect here on earth.

  4. Thank you for your great memory of 42 years ago, Sandy.


  5. I was at work when the first landing on the moon took place. I worked labor and delivery, and we had several deliveries that evening, but I managed to pop in and out of the father's waiting room where the TV was on, and I saw most of the event. Later I realized I had been privy to two miracles that evening, the miracle of birth and the miracle of space.

  6. A great memory to share, Yvonne. Thank-you :-)