Posts Tagged ‘space shuttle’

We’re driving, as fast as we can, through Louisiana, Alabama and eventually Florida. We’ve got three days, racing against the clock, trying to get to our target position as soon as possible.

There’s little time to sleep or eat. On average we’re getting about four hours a night before setting off again and racing past landmarks we had planned to see. There’s a sense of guilt that we’re racing across half of the southern of the USA, stopping only in Alabama for petrol, rather reminiscent of that epic Top Gear episode but without the hillbillies chasing us. This is important, something we would regret if we don’t do it. Our last chance.

Over eight hundred miles later and we arrive on the coast of Florida in Titusville, we skip Cocoa Beach just in case we can’t get onto the pier (apparently the best spot to see it), amongst the million people who are trying to do exactly the same thing, searching for a spot on the beach, by the side of the road or rather bravely on the edge of a bridge, about to become a piece of history.

It’s only seven in the morning, some people have been here since the day before and we look totally unprepared as people roll up in campervans or grab their fold out chairs and begin to cook bacon sandwiches on portable stoves. The pair of us only have jumpers to sit on and some gone off Pringles.

For most of the people here, space shuttle launches have been a main part of their life, the staff in Wallgreens across the road have a certain sombreness to them but keep a cheerful face as they serve people buying STS 135 t-shirts by the dozen and an insane amount of ice cold coffee.

Others like myself have always intended to come and witness one of the most amazing pieces of scientific history. Today is our last chance and there are strong levels of anticipation amongst us, everyone is whooping and cheering, listening to NASA radio. Claps are heard as they give the final go ahead for launch.

The atmosphere is electric and everyone is so lovely to each other sharing food and spare camping chairs, swapping thoughts and stories about the last mission. The southern hospitality obviously spreads all the way down past the concrete city of Orlando, all the way to the space coast.

Those last five minutes seem to last forever, the past three days have been so stressful that as the crowd start to count down 10…..9…. I can’t help feel relieved and of course extremely emotional…..6….5…..4….3…..2….1… Suddenly, the bursting yellow flames of the burners appear in the distance and the giant mega tonne shuttle lifts off. People are fist pumping, whooping and cheering as the rocket speeds into the sky. It’s hard to remember that there are four people inside, their bodies being pushed to the limit as they speed off high up in the air towards the international space station 50 miles above the air.

The solid rocket boosters fall of as supposed to and the amazing rocket goes up into the clouds. Everyone is chanting USA, USA as we finally get the delayed sound of the super shuttle at full speed above us. I was awestruck, a tear running down my cheek. This country just sent a giant plane with fuel attached to it up into the atmosphere, the crowd are patriotic and everyone has come to say a final goodbye to the space shuttle programme. If there is a time for the country to be able to chant USA USA!!, then today is the day.

People shake hands, swap email addresses, finish taking the final pictures, eventually stop whooping and cheering, but no one can really stop talking about what they have just seen. We have all been part of history today with record numbers of people being witness to the final mission.

When we eventually got back to the car, we journeyed to Orlando to decide what to do now. Everything we seemed to do that day seemed entirely insignificant from watching brits waddle around outlet stores and spotting theme parks to see which one we wanted to go to. After much debating about what to do and where to go, we headed out of Orlando. We’d got what we came here for anyway, something that will stay with us forever.


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