some of us are looking at the stars

On January 28, 1986, I was home from school with the flu. I remember that, no matter what I did, I couldn't get warm, so I was sitting in a hot bath when my mom knocked on the bathroom door. 

"There was an accident with the space shuttle," she said, in the same voice she used when she told me that my grandmother had died.

For the next few hours, I sat on the couch, wrapped up in as many blankets as we had, and watched one of the local news networks – probably ABC – cover the unfolding disaster. Because of the fever and the years between now and then, I can't recall a single detail other than how impossible the whole thing felt. How could something like that even happen? And did it mean that we'd never put people into space again?

This morning, I sat in my office and watched the shuttle Atlantis launch into space via a NASA TV stream through VLC on a monitor that is bigger than my family's 1986 television. When mission control gave the order to go with throttle up, I held my breath like I have every single time since the shuttle program was reinstated in 1988, and when the shuttle separated from the boosters and glided into orbit, I got something in my eye. Just take a moment, if you don't mind, and think about what it means that we can leave our planet, even if we've "only" gotten as far as the dark side of the moon. Think about what it means that something as incredible as putting humans into space and bringing them back safely to Earth today earns less media attention and public excitement than the typical celebrity breakup.

It is amazing that we can do this, and even though I've come to believe the shuttle program isn't the best way to spend NASA's tiny budget (which is a pitiful fraction of what it should be), I hope that there was a child watching the launch today who will feel inspired to reach out to the stars and see what's out there.

We humans are a flawed species, to put it mildly, and I think we could do a much better job taking care of our planet and each other … but when I see what we're capable of doing, it gives me hope that the future I pretended to live in twenty years ago will actually arrive some day.

FSMspeed, Atlantis.

160 thoughts on “some of us are looking at the stars”

  1. Perhaps I’m the only one that noticed, but Wil, you broke your “Don’t be a Dick” mantra by wishing the astronauts aboard a craft that blasts away from our planet at a few thousand miles per hour, a wish backed by the good graces of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Wow. Just Wow.

  2. To this day, I must leave the room or change the channel when they show a replay of the Challenger disaster.
    I was assigned to Patrick AFB when it happened and had met, even if only very briefly, a couple of the people on board because they typically flew in to Patrick, stopped for lunch at our dining hall, and would get introduced to anyone who happened to be there. It was pretty cool.
    When launch time approached, our entire office lined up at the windows of our second floor, north facing office in the Technical Application Center just south of Cocoa Beach. It was always a great view that we thought could only be improved by going to the Space Center itself to watch a launch, which we often did. It wasn’t just us, either. Back then, almost the entire county came to a stop to watch a Shuttle launch. You’d see cars suddenly pulling to the side of the roads and folks climbing to the roofs of their houses (and trucks) for a better view. The beaches were often lined with spectators. When the Shuttle left the pad and people could see it for the first time over the horizon, there was always a cheer followed by happy discussion of who could see it the longest, where it was going, what was the mission, and other things.
    But not that day. Oh, the initial cheer came when we first saw the shuttle, but a minute later there was simply stunned silence. And then someone in my office quietly said, “My God, I think we’ve lost a Shuttle.”
    No one even tried to go back to work as we tried to find out what had happened. After a while, the commander of our unit told everyone who wasn’t essential to daily operation (like me) to go home. I don’t remember much of the rest of that day because I was just numb. The color somehow seemed to have faded out of the world.
    I still live in the area and have a Challenger memorial license plate, and will as long as Florida continues the program. I still get choked up when I visit the memorials at the Space Center.
    Thanks Wil, now I’ll probably spend my whole Saturday sad…

  3. Just FYI: There is no “dark side of the moon,” except for the Pink Floyd album. There is a far side that the Earth doesn’t see, because the Moon is phase locked to the Earth. But the very fact that the one side we can see can be fully lit or fully dark should show anyone that there can be no “dark side.” Sorry.
    But it sounds neat.

  4. Wil, I was home sick from school that day too. My mom and I were watching Days of Our Lives (“her stories”, which I believe still featured a pre-Q John De Lancie) when they broke in with a special report. I remember my mom being annoyed that it was probably just about the shuttle launching. And of course it wasn’t.

  5. 1/28/86 is burned in my memory…I went to a Catholic elementary school, and that’s the day our church burned down.
    T’was the scariest day of my childhood. I remember thinking the world was going to end.
    Now…not so much. But like you, I held my breath as I watched every shuttle take off.

  6. First, I’m feeling very old… all you damn kids! I was halfway through gradual school in ’86.
    Here at JSC in Houston, there is much angst over the Constellation cancellation because we will be hardest hit in terms of job losses (largely on the contractor side) and for the perception that the US is abandoning human spaceflight. But this is absolutely NOT what the plan is! It’s quite maddening to me that detractors make that claim.
    Commercial access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is the next logical step. As Neil deGrasse Tyson put it recently, NASA’s charter mandates that it stay on the frontier, and LEO stopped being the frontier long ago. Tyson said “LEO is boldly going where hundreds have gone before.” After the decision was made, in 2004 (hello, by the previous administration, not Obama– another fallacy, people claiming “Obama killed the Shuttle program”), to retire Shuttle, there was always going to be a years-long gap in US access to space. The new plan will chop that gap in half, more than likely, such that US spacefarers will be back in space years sooner than they could possibly have been under Cx.
    Heavy lift development will admittedly be delayed several years, but again, if things stay reasonably on track, crewed tests of that system will take place many years earlier than would have been possible under Cx. THIS is where the frontier is: deep space, beyond LEO, accessible only with heavy lift capability.
    There is also serious planning underway for human missions to near-Earth asteroids. We’re not talking about the asteroid belt now, beyond the orbit of Mars; thousands of asteroids are in closer, Earth-crossing orbits, and they could be reached in a journey of several weeks. The science value of sampling such objects is absolutely enormous (sample science is my stock in trade), and the inspiration value will be equally enormous, as humans share in the images sent back by the asteroid-visiting spacecraft as Earth and the Moon get smaller and smaller and smaller. Eventually, from the asteroid, they will appear about the size of a pea held at arm’s length, and their distance apart will be about what the diameter of a quarter would be. In other words, one could one’s thumb at arm’s length and easily hide both Earth and Moon from there. In comparison, the same was true for the Apollo astronauts looking back at Earth– they could hide it behind their thumb. I predict the impact on how we view our home of seeing it from such a vantage will be enormous, eclipsing (pardon me) the impact of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo.
    Change is always hard, and the old-school, Apollo-dominated mindset is difficult to change. I loved the Cx plan to return to the Moon (lunar science is a huge part of my portfolio), but it was just not going to happen given five years of way underfunding. And because the new plan was dropped on the agency from OMB with only days’ notice, NASA appeared hapless and bumbling when it rolled out. Since that time, many teams have worked very hard to flesh out the plans, and there will a LOT of very exciting stuff happening before we know it. There will still be short term job-loss pain, but the long view is that the US is NOT abandoning space, and in fact we’ll have more Americans in space sooner with this new plan — if there is follow-through in subsequent budget years, of course.
    Just one NASA geek’s view…

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I’m also hopeful that space exploration will gain accelerating progress in the years and decades ahead, as understanding space will also help us understand ourselves and our place in the universe better.

  8. We were out of school that day for a snow day. I lived a bit east of Atlanta, and I can with stunning clarity remember my mother wondering why they were going to launch the shuttle that day (due to the weather) as she turned on the television for me before going to make breakfast. Even more clearly can I remember her telling me that I was wrong, that there was no way that the Shuttle had just exploded as I yelled towards the kitchen a little while later.

  9. 6th grade, school library. Rockdale Tx. horrified. We had 4 “big” TVs set up for all the 6th grade to watch it. I was reading Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo at the time and I thought I was gonna be the next guy on the moon.

  10. It’s amazing how an event can make you recall the most mundane of activity. I was sticking coins in a vending machine, trying to get some breakfast before an early Tuesday morning Art History class at Cal State Northridge, when a girl walked up, clearly upset. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me what had happened. I couldn’t go to class, and just ended up watching the news with roommates in my dorm room all day.

  11. Reading this entry brought back my own fears from February 1, 2003. Ive been a space addict my entire life, often staying up until 3 am to watch the Perseid meteor shower, or spending countless hours staring at the Hale Bop comet in ’96 or ’97. I was determined to become an astronaut, or space explorer or something that had to do with being up there with those stars.
    That morning in 2003, however, that desire inside me died, along the the crew of 7 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, when it disintegrated upon reentry. My parents woke me up early that morning because I had been talking about the shuttle returning to Earth for days. I cried when they woke me up and told me the shuttle had fallen apart, and I watched the footage over and over.
    I was depressed for weeks afterwards, and though I still watch the Perseid’s, and talk to my daughter about what stars are and show her the constellations, I think there will always be a fear and a deep sadness inside me.
    Thank you Wil, for sharing this with us.

  12. My dad says of airplanes (I often think the same of getting out of bed every day) “It’s not a miracle that they stay in the air, it’s a miracle that they get off the ground in the first place.”
    I too, hold my breath every time, and every time, I’m so glad to be filled once again with that child-like wonder when it all holds together and flies.

  13. I’m one of those who believe we never should have stopped going to the moon in the first place.
    I was having lunch at my girlfriends farm in Delaware when I found out abot CHALLENGER. I watched the clips over and over thinking it might be a dream. The one shot of Christa McAuliffe’s parents brought it home how real it was.
    Where is the nexr JFK who would inspire us to go further out in space instead of sitting at a console letting the machines do the work.

  14. I also was home sick that day. I was sitting on the floor in front of the TV (also wrapped in blankets) watching in amazement as the astronauts and teacher were preparing to depart the Earth. I was glued. Smiling from ear to ear. Shushing my mother who kept insisting that it wasn’t a good idea to send a teacher on a space shuttle.
    BLASTOFF! I was riveted! So stupidly excited!
    But then… wait… what… is that supposed to happen? What is that? Did the shuttle just…?!?!?
    I watched the news coverage all day and watched Challenger explode over and over and over. To this day, I can not watch a shuttle launch even when I know that it is not a live broadcast and everything went according to plan. I close my eyes and think of the Challenger crew and pray that this crew will make it home safely. I admire all the astronauts who did not let Challenger shake their faith and continue to be amazed that we can leave this Earth and make it back.

  15. I was also out of school that day, watching the launch live. I grew up watching shuttle launches, and when I was 9, TNG came on and there was the crew of the Enterprise-D hopping from star to star with one push of a button from Acting Ensign Crusher. I knew that by the time I hit 30, we would be to Mars, and probably beyond. How wrong I was. And now even our shuttle to low-Earth orbit is going away. This is truly sad. I now have 2 boys. What will they grow up aspiring to be? With no Trek on TV and no shuttles going up (I am planning to take them down for one of the last two) I am sad that they might not have the same optimistic view I had. Then again, maybe they just won’t be as disappointed as I am right now.

  16. I was in 8th grade, sitting in my school library’s storage area, with all of the other Apple II computers, clackitying away – until I noticed one of the teachers who was actually a (relatively) high finalist in the teacher in space program just run right by. The school librarian came in a few moments later, and mentioned that there had been an accident on the shuttle launch. I remember walking very quietly out into the main area of the library, and watching the aftermath of the accident with about 15 other people. We were all completely transfixed. I do not know if school was cancelled, but noone was able to get their minds off of the accident for the rest of the day.
    I hope that the space program is able to continue on and prosper in some future form.

  17. That day there was a very old, ill lady who personally saw the horror of everything going wrong and never got over it.
    My grandmother, whom I affectionately called MeeMaw, was a GREAT supporter of the Space program, NASA, et al. She always wanted to travel down to Florida to personally watch a launch. Although her health was failing, my grandfather bought an RV so he could help my grandmother see many things across the United States before she died.
    It still brings me to tears knowing that was the launch she witnessed. It was very hard for my family. MeeMaw was so wracked with grief if anything reminded her of that day. She did not live long enough to witness the shuttle launch reinstatement.
    I’ve been a member of NASA FCU for many years (my father worked for NASA). I’ve always been happy to see a space shuttle launch on my Visa card. I hope they don’t change that design.

  18. I hope one day there will be a global space agency combining all human effort in one place. Competition can be a good thing, and somehow in the 60s it certainly was the main driving force behind all space programs, but if all nations currently engaged in space related research would pull together on one rope … just imagine how awesome that would be …

  19. I’ve lived in Orlando for almost nine years and have watched (and heard!) as many space shuttle launches as I can. I’ve worked in the defense industry here for about six years and it’s awesome that business pretty much stops whenever there’s a daytime shuttle launch; we even have someone who goes through the building letting everyone know the launch is about to start. We get a great view, watching the bright glowing shuttle fade into the distance.
    I want to head over to the space coast to watch the shuttle launches this fall. The one time I drove over for a launch, it wound up getting canceled and getting the KSC view is, to me, one of the biggest HAVE TO DO things.
    It makes me so, so sad that it’s coming to an end… for now. I hope that it will be brought back to life by Americans again.

  20. I was in science class in Vancouver when it happened. I remember my teacher was so excited about our class finally being able to watch something that cool in class.
    I remember him sinking to his chair, pale and with wide eyes. I couldn’t look away from the screen, and I remember feeling numb….
    This is always something I wanted to do, but never had the chance.

  21. I was home from school, too – not due to illness, but to a snow day. I was at my friend Tamara’s house, having breakfast with her & her family (I don’t remember clearly, but I think we knew it would be a snow day & we’d have off, so I slept over the night before. I think.) I remember eating not-quite-cooked pancakes & watching the news over & over on the TV in the kitchen. I remember thinking that the smoke trails looked like a chicken. I think I was too shocked – too young, maybe – to cry. But when Columbia happened… I remember hearing about that on the radio, & not being able to stop the tears.
    To the person from NASA (was it Dave@Nasa? Sorry, can’t find the post now…) who explained about the budget & the plans… thanks. It was very informative. :-)
    -Alicia (@AliciaWag)

  22. Hee. My boss walked by, saw what I was watching, said “Cool! How much time until liftoff?” and was back just in time for launch.
    There are advantages to working in a geek-friendly industry.

  23. I live right by NASA in Houston, and I’ve worked with ex-contractors and know current employees… I used to dream of being an astronaut (until I discovered how bad I was at applied physics), I’ve been in the actual training grounds with the hydraulic simulated cockpit, even flown a landing mission as the “captain” on the simulator… let me tell you, I was 14 when that happened, and not a week goes by that I don’t remember the surreal ecstasy of just SIMULATED space flight. I agree about our flaws as a species – if we could just focus on the amazing things we have and can do, and apply ourselves to science… that is way to a progressively better future. It helps when everything is going wrong and you’ve forgotten what good things there are in the human race, to remember our trespass into the cosmos, and how someday it will be ours. I like this Sagan quote, “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day travel to stars.” Being so close to it, living just around the corner, it’s like being on a farm in Iowa across from a Federation space port. One of Houston’s many underground charms.

  24. The Space Program is awe inspiring, beautiful, breathtaking… and ridiculously expensive.
    I really loved that last paragraph Wil.
    I think that conflict resides in a lot of us… Humankind reaching for the stars is the yardstick of Human endeavor, but when there is just much going wrong down here on earth, it is hard to not want those dollars to be used to improve life in the here and now
    Thanks for Sharing

  25. The way you write about it…I got something in my eye just reading your post.
    It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. 40 years ago there where people, who actually landed on the moon. Did you see the computers they had, back then? I mean, compared to what we have now. And they made it into the space, and back! Imagine what we could do today…I know, its selfish, there are more important things that need the money. But still. I can’t wait till 2024 (Lunar outpost-project).
    Love from Germany

  26. At the risk of being picky, there is no such thing as the ‘dark side of the moon.’ All ‘sides’ of the moon receive the same amount light over the course of 28 days.

  27. Wil,
    I was a work and every monitor and TV got tuned to the news (as it did for the next shuttle disaster, and for 9/11). People dug out radios and gave updates from each broadcast, we were all just numb.
    This weekend, my wife and I came out to the east (space) coast and watched our first shuttle launch, supposedly Atlantis’s last flight. I share your tear with every launch and my heart pauses for just a moment when the shuttle “throttles up”. It was a sight to see in person and if you ever would like to come out to see it, let us know. There are only two (maybe three, we hear now) launches left. We cannot get you up close, but even at 10 miles from the pad, it is a sight to behold.

  28. I remember sitting in the high school cafeteria, enjoying a bear claw and waiting with friends for our first class. Just before the bell rang, one of our other friends came in and told us that the shuttle had just exploded.
    He was the class clown type and so we all sat there waiting for him to spring the punchline and when it didn’t come we just moved along to our classes. Obviously, it hadn’t clicked yet. It was such an impossible thing that we were unable to take it as anything other than an admittedly tasteless joke.
    Lunch came, and a few of us decided to walk to the nearby mall. At that time there was a Sony Store just opposite the entrance and it had the requisite wall of TVs. There was a crowd in front of the store and we walked up to see what was going on.
    Just as we approached, the wall of TVs hammered us with the footage that is now burned into my brain; the trail of smoke blooming large and splitting off into two twisting trails.
    I can’t tell you what the rest of the school day was like, it was a blur. We might have just sat in front of all those TVs watching that awful footage, still waiting for the punchline that never came to tell us it was just a tasteless joke.
    I do remember it was only a couple of days later when the tasteless jokes came in earnest. How many astronauts can you fit in a Volkswagen? I punched the guy who first asked that.
    Sure, jokes are our way of trying to minimize the pain. But at that time it felt too much like sacrilege.

  29. I don't believe in a god, but I do believe in wishing people well, in my own way. I'm sorry you feel that qualifies as being a dick.

  30. I drove from North Carolina to be at the launch of Atlantis STS-132, my first. In 86 I worked for an ABC station and watched as the “Special Report” came in from the network. You can bet that as I cheered Atlantis on Friday, I said “go with throttle up” and my hearts skipped more than a few beats. That eye stuff was streaming down my face before it was over.
    Curtis ‘Special K’ Krumel (friend of Otis)

  31. Hi Wil, this is totally unrelated to this post, but I just got the audio book of Just a Geek for the drive from CT to family in OH and it was not only one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard, but really one of the best books I’ve ever “read.” You said that when you started writing stories you tried to write like David Sedaris. And while I totally love David Sedaris, he usually just makes me laugh. Your book made me laugh and cry and be excited and stand up and cheer for you. I haven’t been this touched by a book in a long time. So thank you for your writing. And thank you for being such a cool geeky guy.
    Oh yeah, and thanks for blessing my dice at PAX East. I’ve gotten a few twenties, and a whole bunch of 19s! How’s 19 work for you!!!!

  32. Wow, I remember that day, too! I was very young and this is one of the two very, very sad accicents of my childhood-days.The other one was Tschernobyl. Of course a lot of sad and bad things happened when I was young, but those two things were the ones that made me cry when I was just a little girl.
    However, I´ve never stoped to reach for the stars. It´s amazing that we can go so far! But sometimes I still wonder. How could it be, that human beings can fly to the moon, but they are still childs starving because they have no food?

  33. Growing up in Florida, I remember standing outside our 7th grade science class, actually watching that launch so many years ago. I was an avid astronomy and space buff, and as I saw this big cloud appear at the head of the contrail, and two seperate trails break off from that cloud, I remember thinking, “That’s not how it’s supposed to go.” I was puzzled by this as we went back inside (as we would do when we could no longer see the contrails of the shuttle launches), and a few moments later, they announced over the PA system that the shuttle had exploded. It seemed so incredibly surreal then, and it still does today.
    I wholeheartedly agree that we are a flawed, yet incredible species, and if I could have one wish concerning humanity as a whole, it would be that we could somehow ALL of us see that potential. Perhaps then we could approach our existance from a different perspective.

  34. I grew up in the same town as the McAuliffe family, so we were glued to the TV that day. My mom and I watched the launch itself and then headed out to the car so she could take me to kindergarten. (It was half-day at our school and I was in the afternoon session.) We had the radio on in the car, so that’s how we heard the shuttle had exploded. It was a surreal experience for my little five-year-old self. A woman I’d met just a month or so earlier, a teacher at a local school, was gone in a puff of smoke along with half a dozen trained astronauts.
    Between that and the Columbia accident, I haven’t been able to watch a launch live in years. I ignore it as best I can until it’s over and watch the footage then. I am, on occasion, superstitious.
    While I’m saddened to see the shuttle program ending, it’s probably for the best that NASA is moving forward with other things. I mean, really, where’s my flying car and/or hoverboard, guys? :p

  35. I was in my high school algebra class when it happened. All the classrooms the rest of the day had it playing.
    I will miss the shuttle program. I hope we are able to get back into manned spaceflight soon.
    However, since most of the media doesn’t play space related video, I watch it all on Bumped into it awhile ago while trying some ustream stuff. It’s fun and I get to chat with other space geeks:)) is also pretty good for up to date coverage.

  36. I was late for school that day, listening to my walkman as I rode my bike to 6th grade. I remember slamming on my brakes and listening closer. I remember seeing the stunned expressions on the drivers of the cars going by, and knowing they’d just heard the same news I had. I even remember Mrs. Stone being mad at me for telling such a lie as an excuse for being late, just before the news came over the intercom.
    We were a gifted and talented class, so it hit us all pretty hard.

  37. Point taken, Wil. And I’m no card-carrrying religious fanatic, but still, kind of a dick move. Sorry.
    -May your pasta monster always be alive in your heart.

  38. I am one year older than the Space Shuttle program, and about three years younger than its big brother that never got to space (Enterprise). I was in first grade when Challenger touched the face of God, I was twenty-three when Columbia folded its wings. So yeah, the fact that the fleet is being retired as I approach my 30th birthday has some resonance with me.
    I wouldn’t feel as bad if there were a replacement program in the wings, but there isn’t, and President Obama’s well-meaning but wrong-headed efforts to cut “unnecessary government spending” by further reducing NASA’s already shoe-string budget frustrates, but also excites me.
    I believe that scientific progress moves fastest in two cases: when militaries realize they can kill people with it, and when corporations realize they can make tons of money with it. The military is fine using unmanned space flights to launch their spy satellites into orbit, so it’s up to the greedy people to figure out how to make tons of money from human space travel and truly kick off the space age.

  39. It’s funny, I was 6 in 1986 and don’t specifically remember the actual disaster, but it was probably in 2nd or 3rd grade we had to do some “what do you want to be when you grow up” thing. I wrote down “astronaut” and remember my teacher said something like “wow, really?” and it took me awhile to realize why she was so shocked. So I don’t really remember how I felt the actual day of the disaster, but I remember my teacher’s reaction to my interest in space from like a year later

  40. I remember that day very vividly as well.
    I was in Uruguay visiting my relatives, and my dad made me read the paper in Spanish so I could figure out what happened. That was a hell of a Spanish lesson, that’s for sure.

  41. I remember sitting at home one day years ago and just dreaming about space; its vastness and how incredibly small we are. This started my facination with astronomy, space exploration and science fiction. Years later I sit here writing a thesis about Mars for my graduate work. I look forward to the day humans will visit that planet and beyond!

  42. I was home sick that day, too. If I recall correctly, though, I was faking it. Mom and I watched it and it was so heartbreaking. The fact that I was at home “sick” made me feel guilty, too.

  43. I was also home from school. I remember sitting on the couch, watching the launch, then screaming to my mom who was in the laundry room. She was irritated that I was making such a ruckus, until she saw the tv. I remember being disappointed and sad, because I was looking forward to Christina MacAuliffe’s Saturday morning science lessons, which were going to be broadcast from space.

  44. Beautiful post, Wil. The stars and space travel will never cease to amaze me, there is so much that we don’t know and can’t even comprehend. I hope someday, the public once again becomes interested in science and space. One of my favorite quotes of all time is when Picard says “Let’s see what’s out there.” There’s so much possibility and wonderment in that statement. Thanks for reminding me to look at the stars. In the hustle and bustle of life its easy to forget.

  45. I was 6 years old and watching with my kindergarten class. We were very excited to get to watch it live and it had been talked about for weeks.
    I think we were all initially confused, then scared. I remember our teacher was so shocked that she didn’t turn the tv off for several seconds, then quickly moved to turn it off. She told to sit quietly as she ran out the door. A couple of minutes later, she came back and told us we were going out for recess, but she changed her mind and we were gathered together with the the other kindergarten classes. The teachers were huddled together and were trying not to cry, while we were the quietest group of 100 kindergartners you could find.
    I’m not sure you can quite grasp what had happened at that age. We knew something bad had happened and that the adults were very upset, but nothing specific. I realized later that they were probably trying to figure out the best way to tell us, without upsetting us too much. I mean, how exactly do you explain something like that to a group of small children?
    I’ve never had the pleasure of watching a launch live, but I had always hoped I would have been able to do so. I was honeymooning in Florida a couple of weeks before Endeavour launched and visited KSC a couple of days after she was put on the launch pad. We found this out after we had gotten lost trying to find KSC and ended up on the road toward the Air Force Base. The gentlemen at the gate was very helpful and mentioned that we were visiting at a good time. I asked why and he told us to hold on for a second and went to the booth.
    He came back with something that looked like a commemorative coin, told us about the shuttle being in place, and gave us the coin. It’s probably my favorite souvenir of the trip.

  46. I have to say, Wil, I’ve only recently started reading your blog and listening to RFB, but am extremely happy I’ve found them. This post, as well as your podcasts, are incredibly poignant. I’m also a geek father and I distinctly remember the day of the Challenger. One of our teachers was in the final rounds of selection to go on the shuttle but was not chosen. She cried the entire day. It felt extremely close to home for us.
    Now, I look toward the future and see the possibilities of what’s to come, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip 1 and the innovation we are seeing in the space industry, and am incredibly inspired.

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