I managed to get out of work early on Thursday afternoon with enough time to pick up Elle and her friend from school and drag them out to the baseball field.  They had no idea why I was taking them there.  Their gymnastics class was starting in less than 90 minutes and they still needed to eat dinner and change into their leotards.  I, however, had ants in my pants!

Space Shuttle Discovery was preparing for its final flight into space – this was a big deal! 

Living in Florida allows my daughter and me many cool luxuries, things like not having to spend money on a hotel after a fun-filled day at Disney World (we only live 2.5. hours away), seeing endangered marine animals in their natural habitat, and watching a space shuttle launch from nearly 150 miles away.  Night launches are always the best but even a daytime launch puts on a pretty spectacular show. 

When Columbia took off on its final flight in January of 2003, it was a warm enough day that I actually went to the beach.  I remember seeing the shuttle shoot across the perfectly blue and cloudless sky.  A handful of fellow beachgoers stared upward and covered their eyes from the glare of the sun.  I didn’t pay as much attention to it as others seemed to do.  On February 1st, the day Columbia disintegrated following re-entry, I immediately regretted not watching the shuttle with more interest.  I’ve never missed a shuttle launch since.

As the girls and I waited for 4:50pm to come, they performed cartwheels and handstands in the grass of the local little league field.  Another woman came out with her dog to watch the launch as did another family from across the street.  This was Discovery’s last orbit.  All of us stared up at the sky and waited…and waited…and waited…

(…as I am not of the smartphone-carrying elite, I had to call someone in my office to Google the NASA update…DELAY)

As my coworker furiously punched at her keyboard to find me some shuttle information, a very faint white streak slowly came up from behind the trees.

There it is! There it is, Mommy!! (a few minutes later, but yes…there it was!)

I looked up just in time to catch the sun hitting the body of the shuttle and I could see the burning rockets with my own eyes…they’re that intense.

It's a bird! It's a plane!'s too small to see :(

It's a bird! It's a plane!'s too small to see. Boo. Just blow up this pic and the following pics. It's the only way you'll see anything!

here you can see a teeny little bit of the vapor trail just to the right of the lights and heading across to the left

It's two birds! And a space shuttle! No planes...seriously, blow up the pic and you'll see a freakishly small white dot. I promise you it's Discovery!

Unfortunately, for you, my pictures are pretty crappy!  As I clicked and clicked and clicked away, I realized there was no more vapor trail.  The whole thing, shuttle and all, seemed to get sucked into the vast blue sky without any warning.  Even the booster drop wasn’t visible.  The dog lady and I both became a little concerned that something had happened.

But I don’t see anything strange up there, no explosion or black smoke, she said. 

My stomach didn’t settle until I got home a few minutes later to see the folks at NASA communicating with the crew (we get a NASA channel – if they weren’t going kaputz on us, I’d totally suggest subscribing to it!). 

So, all is well and I was able to get two little girls out to see a shuttle launch.  They are both very sad to learn that pretty soon there will be no more space shuttle launches.

We still have two launches remaining, though, with Space Shuttle Endeavor on April 19th and Space Shuttle Atlantis on June 28th.  I think a drive down to Cape Canaveral is in order…

Two things:

  • If you brought in a lighter to a concert these days, you’d get arrested.
  • What? C’mon! You can’t have a discussion about OUTER SPACE without The Final Countdown!! Besides, I had to substitute my crappy pictures with something awesome. Wee Oooh Wee Oooh…Wee Oooh Oooh Oooh Oooh…(it’s in your head, too.  You’re welcome!)

About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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