Trio-Hop (Throwback) Thursday–Growing Up Near NASA/KSC
Not a post about dogs, but definitely a Throwback Thursday qualifier! Plus, there is a dog further down in the post.
With the Orion test flight on a hold as I type this, my mind is flooded with a lifetime of memories of growing up near Kennedy Space Center here in Florida. I am so close that every time a rocket lifts off, the entire house shakes, windows rattle and everyone clogs up the coast for miles in either direction to get the best view possible of the launch. All I have to do is step out my front door.
I grew up with the Space Shuttle program, watching just about every single launch from the first in 1981 to the last in 2011. My father worked on Center as an independent contractor, and during launches Center employees were allowed passes to bring their families out to watch launches. In school we went outside to watch most of them, however I was sitting in my high school American History class when the news of the first shuttle disaster broke. It was so surreal. Up until then the shuttle had been something we really just took for granted as part of our lives, but after Challenger was lost, it was forever different. It would be 2 and a half years before the program would resume.
The feelings associated with that time are quite dark. It was a sad time, truthfully. Many of my classmates had parents working at the Space Center. It felt as if everything just stopped.
((As I type this, a scrub was just announced for the Orion test flight))
When I grew up I ended up working at the Space Center as well. I worked in Data Entry, then in an administrative capacity at the largest of the medical clinics on site, then later as an escort to persons without government level security clearance. It was while I was working in that final position that Columbia was lost. I was assigned to escort a team of German scientists with experiments on board Columbia. They were part of the CEBAS Project. Here is a link to the experiments that were on board STS-107.
From Nasa Headquarters we watched and listened as Columbia was monitored re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The scientists were excited about retrieving their experiments. Several tv monitors were on. Since both channels were playing on different monitors, I was able to simultaneously watch NASA TV and CNN as events unfolded. As the scientists still excitedly discussed retrieving their experiments, I knew I was watching something that was not normal. I will never forget the feeling of utter disbelief as it swept over me. I remember mumbling “Not again.” One of the scientists asked, “What is it? Is this not right?” “No,” I replied, “It’s not right.”
We spent most of our time at the O & C (Operations & Control), which is where we immediately returned upon realizing what had just happened. I think we were the only ones there then as the building was pretty empty. I remember seeing an ambulance outside shortly thereafter and passing by the crew quarters on the 3rd floor. It didn’t occur to me until later when I heard wails and crying that this is where they would bring the families of the astronauts to tell them that their loved ones were gone. At the first available opportunity we left the building. The grief and despair hung in the air like fog and I just felt wildly inappropriate being so close to these families as they received the most devastating news they would likely ever receive. I never saw anyone, but I distinctly remember hearing someone cry out. It was heart wrenching.
One of the German scientists gave me a pin to commemorate their work on the mission:
Commemorative pin, CEBAS Project
Within 3 days the contract I was working was terminated. The scientists went back to Germany. No more shuttle launches would take place until 2005. The local economy took a nosedive. Things never really were the same after that. Instead of staring up into the sky at a magnificent launch it was now terrifying. Still impressive, but nonetheless terrifying and now accompanied by a feeling of dread. When the program ended altogether in 2011 and I watched the last shuttle launch I know I shared emotions with so many others that had grown up with the program. It was sad. I’d watched the first and last shuttle launches and most of the ones in between.
From L to R: Mission patches for the first shuttle mission, lost Columbia mission, pin for STS-107/Columbia mission, CEBAS commemorative pin
With the buzz around the Orion project, many folks around here have high hopes that the economy can show signs of positive growth. It is exciting to think of what the space program will be in the years to come; what my children and great-grandchildren will see. Since we live right down the road, Rama and I hopped into the van and took a ride down to get a shot of the giant shuttle outside of the Astronaut Hall Of Fame, which sits just outside the Kennedy Space Center gates.
Here is a view of the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) from across the Indian River: https://vine.co/v/Ovj9wVZLJBv/embed/simple
Here is a cool link on the VAB with views of the inside as it underwent renovations to prepare it for Orion. Very cool facts and photos there. If you’ve never been inside this building, there is no adequate way to explain it so that you understand the massiveness of the place. It’s an incredible feeling to walk through it.
So hopefully they will get Orion off the ground tomorrow. Fingers (and paws) crossed! Click on the badges below to be taken to each of today’s awesome Thursday hops!