OK, I stole the title from NASA Television and their video from YouTube, but this is a landmark event—the last night launch of the Space Shuttle…and I'm sad.
It wouldn't mean so much to me if I had never visited Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, or stumbled by chance upon the John C. Stennis Space Center while traveling through Mississippi.
It certainly wouldn't mean as much if I hadn't taken the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now historical tour of the (now) Kennedy Space Center. The original launch sites for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs are all still there, including the most sombering Launch Pad 34 where the crew of Apollo 1 perished.
It wouldn't have meant as much if we hadn't gotten a bit “lost” on the massive grounds in my little truck and the nice facility security guard pointing us in the right direction and sending us on our way but not without handing us a couple of large coins commemorating STS-117 and STS-119 (STS-117 being the current launch, the missions were out of numerical order at that time).
It wouldn't meant as much to me if I hadn't taken the tour of the crawlerway, the LC 39 Observation Gantry, the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, and a viewing area of Launch Pad 39B complete with the Space Shuttle prepared for launch within the next couple of days. Which reminds me that I have photos, I just need to remember where I “filed” them.
It wouldn't mean so much if we hadn't driven 60 miles one way to watch a late night launch. We had to do this two nights in a row because the launch was scrubbed 30 seconds before takeoff the first night. This was before the beginning of the iPhone. I had my trusty Mac and network card with me to keep tabs on the launch status the whole time. Yes, I'm an über nerd.
It wouldn't mean so much if I hadn't turned around last year one evening in March to see the Shuttle gracefully arcing up into the sky as seen from the roof of our N.H.R.A. merchandise trailer while in Gainesville, Florida.
And there's so much more that I don't remember right off-hand I'm sure, like waiting on the jetty at Port Canaveral for a day launch that was eventually scrubbed, scrubbed again, then rescheduled. And watching a launch on the television while being trapped in West Yellowstone for the summer—it was a lot like ”being there” having ”been there” before.
But I'm sad now and will be even more so when the very last Shuttle mission takes off, thus closing another chapter of the United States in Space. Now what?