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    Posted May 9, 2011 by
    Cape Canaveral, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The final shuttle

    More from icharles1

    Personal space shuttle images uncovered as program concludes


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     icharles1 of Atlanta, Georgia, has seen more than 30 shuttle launches live at Kennedy Space Center and has covered space as a reporter for 20 years. He submitted 10 images of launches he photographed from 1993 to 2010.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    As the space shuttle program nears it's 135th and final flight, I recently began uncovering and scanning historic personal photographs from the early days of the shuttle era.


    I discovered dozens of images of myself with Endeavour, Discovery and the other orbiters which make up NASA's space shuttle fleet taken during the early years of the space shuttle program.


    I first witnessed Discovery lift-off in December 1992, just months after moving to Cocoa  Beach, Florida to begin covering the American space program from the front row.


    However, I have to go back further, to March 1989, as the first time I saw Discovery soar in person.


    I was at Kelly AFB in San Antonio, Texas and Discovery was en route to Florida following her landing out in California following her STS-29 mission.


    She flew about 1,000 feet overhead riding a top a NASA modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet on approach  to Kelly. She flew right over me!


    I have dozens of great images of Discovery, including many of myself with my favorite orbiter.


    Discovery flew 39 space flights prior to her retirement in March after completing the STS-133 mission.


    I remember attending her Sunday morning launch in September 1993 on STS-51, and the cheers from the press site as we watched from just three miles away.


    Years later, I cheered with great joy when I was able to let my children watch the White Dove soar in April 2010 on her next to final flight.


    The colorful booster exhust from that launch left a rainbow of colors which hung around nearly 30 minutes after launch.


    I look forward to visitng her once a year at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum next year.


    My second shuttle launch was the start of Endeavour's third flight on the STS-54 in January 1993, exactly one week before Pres. Bill  Clinton first took office.


    Endeavour was a new orbiter, as beautiful as a White Dove could be.


    Later that same year, I posed with Endeavour at her sea side launch pad just hours prior to her historic night time lift-off to service the Hubble Space Telescope and restore the future great observatory's vision.


    The 1990's was still a time when cameras were not in every  device as they are today. I sometimes wish I had had my camera with me  more while I was in and around the orbiters, such as for a "rollover" or  a "rollback".


    I recall being one of only two journalists at the Kennedy Space Center's  press site in August 1995, to capture by video and photos Endeavour  as she was hauled back to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building as Hurricane Erin  made her way to the Space Coast later that night.


    One of my favorite shuttle launch images I took was the sunrise image of  Endeavour's 11th lift-off as she soared on her STS-77 mission in May 1996.


    I have fond memories of orbiter's Columbia and Atlantis' launches as well.


    I share with fondness my images of myself with Columbia eight years before she was lost to the ages.


    For most the space shuttle program was more than watching the power of their launches or thrill as they soar on orbit.


    It was the advancement of the engineering we saw and the new sciences which have given America and the world cool new technologies we use every day.

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