- Posted September 22, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Light Years: Your view of space and stars
Welcome Home, Endeavour
When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. It was an amazing experience where I ate pizza practically everyday, was made commander of the Atlantis for a mission, and saw the Enterprise and a Saturn-V rocked on display. I had always wanted to be an astronaut growing up. While life has changed my path for various reasons, the dream of going to space has been one that never quite fully died out.
While I had always planned on going to the massive parade in Los Angeles to see the Endeavour make its way to its new home, I was not planning on going to see the flyover. However, I ended up waking up early this morning and as a spur-of-the-moment idea, ended up at the Griffith Park Observatory a few hours before the flyover. The crowd was already quite large and would number in the hundreds, if not thousands, by the time the flight took place. There were several children with shuttle toys, and even one woman with an inflatable Endeavour.
As the flyover took place, its hard to describe the emotions coming to a once-upon-a-time space nerd. The shuttle program was by no means controversy free. After reaching the moon, NASA scaled back to low-orbit missions with the new shuttles. For some, the program seemed a great step back after a space race that had ignited a great deal of innovation and discovery. Then, of course, there were the tragic accidents of the Challenger and Columbia that further questioned the program’s usefulness.
However, there were a great many positive things the program did, as well. The Endeavour itself flew 25 high-profile missions, many of which helped build the incredible ISS. The space program’s innovations may not be as obvious as velcro or pudding cups were after the original Apollo missions, but we still use a great deal everyday that is in large part thanks to the orbiters and ISS crews.
Seeing the final flyover, and more importantly the great crowds and passion for its arrival, I could not help but think America is finding a reignited passion for NASA and plans to journey into the unknown. The “farewell tour,” along with the recent Curiosity Mars rover landing, have garnered a great deal of interest and sparked a new light on a division that some see as underappreciated and underfunded. There is still a great deal of wonder towards space, and the Endeavour helped us get a little bit closer to that. Seeing it person, you were reminded that this was a vehicle that was the pinnacle of engineering in its day. It has seen Earth from a vantage point that few will ever get to see in this day and age. Looking closely, you could even see the burn marks still left on its re-entry shield, left from its 25 free-falls back home.
The future of NASA and space flight seems as unknown as the universe it is trying to reach. But, for one day at least, the had the hopes and visions of an entire city behind it.