The Shuttle’s Awe and All That Surrounded It

Three decades ago, we watched the Space Shuttle’s launch on our tube television.  We could see the launch from the launch pad and track it until it got to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.  It was carried by all the networks and they controlled the limited existing footage to show it precisely the way they wanted to.

The shuttle’s look stayed the same, but I was awed by the changes exemplified by my viewing its final launch on Friday.

There was no way I could have thought that I would be watching the final launch with the following parameters:

  • Since I was traveling on Friday, I had to watch the launch on a laptop.
  • It was wirelessly connected to my Mobile phone that was set up as a hotspot.
  • The Mobile phone was connected to a 3G network for data and internet connectivity.
  • While watching the video in High-Def on NASA’s website, they were switching between at least a dozen cameras.
  • One of those cameras was connected to the main fuel tank.
  • That camera was able to show the view from space as the shuttle exited the Earth’s atmosphere and did its roll to the “upright” position – all shown live in real-time.
  • That camera continued to stream live video as the shuttle unlocked from the tank and there was a marked difference as the tank began to drift in space.
  • After that, the cameras captured people milling about on the viewing field, congratulating each other in Mission Control – all without hyper editing and just letting the cameras run with the audio open.  no censorship, just access…

Simply breathtaking and exciting is what it was.  I am still in awe. As someone who was just about to enter his teens when the first launch occurred and now has a phenomenal family and career when the last one launches, it’s hard not to be sentimental and even sad that the shuttle program has ended.  Its also humbling to realize how little of those bullet-pointed items above were known to be coming in the future at that time.

As future space development for the US is up-in-the-air and pundits are questioning what the next step should be – if there even is one, I am excited by what the next 3 decades holds.  The drive for the newest engineering is not the exclusive realm of rocket scientists, but also includes sports, communication, computing, travel and lifestyle. The seeds of the future are not sown only in government programs, but in home offices/garages, coffee shops, forward-thinking companies and in the imaginative minds of kids who have to fight for every opportunity that they can squeeze out of an education that a supposedly caring governing body continually diminishes funding for.

Perhaps I’m still such an idealist as I was back then at 12 years old – and continue with some shades of naivete –  but to not think of the possibilities is debilitating.  The wondermint and imagination of what can be will lead to so many advances that it will be an entirely different world three decades from now and hopefully for the better.

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