I cried today as if someone had died. I've had a lot of losses in the past several years -- family, job, house.
The space shuttle was the Space Transportation System (STS). It has been part of my life for 30 years since the time I drove with friends from New Jersey to Florida to see the Columbia launch as STS-1. I drove alone in 1983 for the Challenger STS-7 launch. We were supposed to see the first NASA-Kennedy Space Center (KSC) landing but fog kept that from happening. Unfortunately, I never did get another opportunity to view a space landing.
In 1984 I moved from New Jersey to Texas and landed smack in the middle of the space action. It was the greatest thing to find out that my office was in Building 4. My software development group was on the first floor, flight controllers on the 2nd floor, and astronauts on the 3rd floor. My job required access to the old Apollo Mission Control Center. I saw astronauts from every U.S. space program as well as actors, politicians, and presidents. A few of these are already posted on my Facebook page.
I took philosophy classes with astronaut Story Musgrave and spoke with Sally Ride. I had applied to be an astronaut the same time she did. I saw Bob Crippen and John Young at the annual NASA-JSC chili cook-offs. I am fortunate that Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton attended them as well because they are no longer with us.
We used to have a TV in the lobby of Building 4. One day I was watching some news event with others when Judy Resnik also paused to watch. I was working a night shift at the Mission Control Center (MCC) when Ron McNair stopped by the same vending machine area. I said, "Hi." I was on-site watching the Challenger launch in January 28, 1986 and stayed all day as if to be with family after a tragedy. I attended the NASA-JSC memorial service as well as the dedication of the nearby Challenger Park. I saw family members and astronauts.
I was out of town on February 1, 2003 but I saw the Columbia tragedy unfold on the motel TV before going to a fencing competition. I never went to the competition. I returned to Houston and walked down Saturn Lane to the NASA-Johnson Space Center (JSC) sign that had become a memorial. On Monday I worked in the same MCC back room as the space shuttle people except my job was on the International Space Station side. I attended the NASA-JSC memorial service a few days later.
I could go on and I will in future posts. I believe you get a sense of the range of the experiences I've had. I have photographs and journal entries that will become part of the JSC and other archives. It was always my goal to be a part of history -- an eyewitness and a contributor. That is what makes working in the space program so different from any other work. Some of us just cannot do anything else. We love our space technology but we are not replaceable pieces of equipment.
CNN vetted many of my photos