I sat on my roof with my SLR camera pointed at the sky and a live Twitter feed rolling across the screen of my smart phone this morning. About 90 minutes in, the Space Shuttle Endeavor buzzed downtown Santa Cruz, then hooked left to cruise over the beach and my house, in Seacliff.
It was a magical moment.
Space and all of the unknown that surrounds Earth inspires the imaginations scientists, movie makers and, of course, children. Friday's grand display brought back wonderful memories of my last encounter with a space shuttle.
The summer of 1991 I was a gap-toothed 10-year-old on family vacation in Florida. Disneyworld should have been sole focus, but it was the hour drive east to Kennedy Space Center that put stars in my eyes.
I was fascinated with space. Not in a Star Wars, sci-fi way (I finally watched the Trilogy for the first time this year) but the science of it. I spent several summers tediously building then magnificently launching model rockets, though not always with great success. Thanks to a supportive teacher, I obtained the mailing address for NASA spokespeople across the US and sent them innocent inquiries seeking photos, pamphlets and literature about space shuttles, missions, planets and—of course—how to go to Space Camp.
The arrival of thick manila envelopes from NASA space centers in California, Texas, Mississippi and Florida brought almost as much joy as Christmas. Kind PR people would send reams of 8 1/2-by-11 glossy photos of all things NASA that I could sift through for hours. (Remember, I'm a child of the '80s. The Internet and Google image searches were years away.)
And on a summer day in 1991—Aug. 2, to be exact—my parents humored me and drove the whole family out to Kennedy Space Center. On the way, Dad pointed in the sky and pulled to the side of highway. Us three kids piled out with Mom and watched the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The shuttle's departure had been delayed repeatedly, but on that morning I got to watch it take off for a nine-day mission to deploy satellites and conduct experiments about protein growth and auroral photography.
For me, it was the highlight of our vacation.
Space Camp never happened and those model rockets are dust-covered relics in my parents' attic now, but the anticipation and thrill of watching the Space Shuttle Endeavor fly over my house today brought back the hope, adventure and magic that NASA and space travel has given my generation.
The final frontier ...