Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Friday, February 01, 2008

6 miles away.

Five years ago today, on a Saturday morning, I finished up some paperwork at the P.D. at 0800 CST.

It was quiet. The radio was dead. I toiled on.

I hadn't paid any attention to the fact that the oldest space shuttle in our fleet was landing that morning. If I had, I would certainly have been outside watching for it, as it came across my sky. Stupidly, I still wish that I had, if only to see it for the last time it was to be seen. If I had been outside, I probably would have heard and seen the disintegration of the Columbia.

Why the hell didn't I? As I sat in a tiny little patrol office doing some inconsequential paperwork, seven men and women died, about 200,000 feet above my head.

I've never seen a spacecraft, beyond the satellites that scram across the sky (more and more you see the Iridium satellite flares), but those aren't craft, so much as cargo that got parked. I would have been happy to have watched a 22 year old stopgap spacecraft pass by.

I'm one of those who will someday pay to go stand on some ground 6 miles away from the launch pad of some other spacecraft in eastern Florida. I don't reckon that I'll ever get to go up in one, but at least I can hope to watch one go.

And if it's half as exciting as it looks through my little monitor, as I watch the the event through the lens of someone's handheld video camera, then I'm all in. Take a second and watch the launching of Columbia's last successful mission. Watch the exhaust as it passes above the terminator on its pre-dawn flight, into the the coming day.

Listen to how happy the crowd is when the SRB separation is successful. Hell, I was cheering, too, over 5 years and 1300 miles later. By that time, they were about 30 miles away from the shuttle, but they're just so happy to see that it made it.

Raise your cup to the memory of those who have gone, but don't mourn. Rather, give thanks for the hope that others may --will-- go also.

"When the ship lifts, all bills are paid. No regrets."


_ _ _
Edit: Fixed the link in the middle to show the launch of the last successful round trip of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

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7 Comments:

At Friday, February 01, 2008 10:23:00 AM, Blogger Babs said...

In my junior year of high school, I filled in an hour a day as a teachers' assistant as a class elective. One of my duties was to type up an essay written by one of the science teachers in application for some little program I had never heard of, something about sending a teacher up into space. I did so, and then thought nothing more of it until the next school term, that fateful January morning when Challenger blew up on takeoff - with a teacher on it. And chills ran down my spine. That could have been - but thankfully wasn't - my teacher.

 
At Friday, February 01, 2008 1:00:00 PM, Blogger Hunter said...

I still get the shivers when watching a launch.
Columbia was a tough morning for me as I was hosting a morning show on our local radio station. When the news wire bells started ringing, I was nowhere remotely ready for the magnitude of the emotional hammer that hit me.
We pay a price for daring to reach out beyond arms length, but I thank God we have men and women who can and will do it.

 
At Friday, February 01, 2008 2:10:00 PM, Blogger Rabbit said...

When I had just moved up this way I was staying out in the wilds of Haslet. One night the shuttle was coming in on final to land in Florida; I was on Messenger with SWMBO at the time and I went outside to watch it streak in a firey glow, trailing a plasma vapor trail, from horizon to horizon. She saw it too, at about the same time, nearly 200 miles away. It's a sight that I'll never forget.

About 20 years ago I was at Kennedy and had my photo taken standing within a mile or so of Atlantis, on the pad, in the background behind me.

Yeah, if I had the chance, I'd go.
Short of that, I'd love to go see a launch. At night, if possible.

Regards,
Rabbit.

 
At Friday, February 01, 2008 7:43:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Matt, take your family and GO! It is a spectacle you will never forget. I was lucky enough to be in a position to see a night launch from the SAR box four miles off the Cape at 10000 feet. When the Shuttle went co-altitude with us, we not only heard it inside the aircraft, we FELT it. I was also involved in the search for Challenger, and I will take vivid memories of both those with me to my grave.

 
At Friday, February 01, 2008 8:10:00 PM, Blogger JPG said...

Excellent post, Matt. It struck so many chords in me that I felt the Blogger Comment system wouldn't take all the thoughts it roused in me. So, what you did, was to provide me a topic for my own blog. And I spent some four hours writing it, wanting to get my information and images just right.

Having just now published it, I don't want to go back and insert another thought I just had.

In Summer 1999, while I was attending an in-service school in Austin, someone in class mentioned, "Well, they're bringing the space shuttle home." After class I got a newspaper and, sure enough, there was the story. The shuttle's path would take it right over Travis County, and the vapor trail of its passage should be visible if the clear weather held.

My class held nightly study sessions in the library. As the time neared, I asked if anyone else was going to try to watch. I went to my car and got binoculars and several of us wandered out to the athletic field.

A bit after 10:00 p.m. CDT 27JUL1999, I watched the shuttle come out of the west, on its way to touchdown in Florida . I had no idea how spectacular it would be. It was no simple "vapor trail" in the sky, but a blazing path of fire and smoke. At their altitude, there was still plenty of summer sunlight, even at that hour. I had a beautiful view through my binoculars, and could even make out the arrowhead at the end of the trail. I passed the glasses around and most oohed and ahhed.

The speed was so great that the front of the trail was soon lost from view in the east. Mission number STS-93 touched down at Kennedy Space Center at 11:20:37 p.m. EDT, ending the next-to-the-last successful mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

 
At Friday, February 01, 2008 9:44:00 PM, Blogger phlegmfatale said...

wow, great story, jpg.

That was a marvelous post and a magnificent video, Matt - thanks!

 
At Thursday, February 07, 2008 2:59:00 PM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Set yourself up at http://www.heavens-above.com/ and watch for the space station passes. Keep a radio tuned to 145.80 and you may even get to hear some live chatter from the station.

 

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