Monday, September 24, 2012

Space Shuttle ENDEAVOUR Over San Francisco Skies

I watched with awe yesterday as the space shuttle Endeavour passed overhead on its final trip to its resting place in the Los Angeles area.  Here was the symbol of an era being carried on the back of a Boeing 747 on its funeral march going to its final resting place. It reminded me of the funeral procession for President Kennedy after his assassination in 1963, as his flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the Capitol building to lie in state.  In a strange way, these two events are tied to each other as the two anchor points on an era of manned space flight: Kennedy having been the President when Glenn first made his orbit of the Earth and also putting the stake in the ground challenging the nation to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and the shuttle funeral march signaling the end.  This was one of the most memorable events I have seen in years. 

The NASA space age Odyssey of human space exploration spans my entire adult life. 

I was a high school senior when John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, entered his Mercury capsule to be hurled into space on February 20, 1962.
I was a college junior and senior when the Gemini program was launching space capsules.
I was in grad school and just married the month before Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon in July 1969.
My first son was born a few months before the Apollo 13 mission in April, 1970
Apollo 17,  the eleventh and final  mission to the moon in December, 1972, was completed shortly before I completed my doctorate and the birth of my second son. 
The Apollo Soyuz space hook up was in 1975, just as I took my position at Columbia University.
The first space shuttle mission occurred in April, 1981, just as we launched our first PC software product. The events continued on through the decades, some good, some bad:
--the space shuttle Challenger disaster which occurred in January, 1986
--the Hubble space telescope launch in April, 1990
--the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia February, 2003
are all marked by corresponding events in my life.

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