Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Sea of Shuttle Seers.

I spent the last few nights with good friends in Titusville, Florida. I had hoped to see the last Space Shuttle launch at night, but it was scrubbed because of cloud cover on the first night. It did go off the next night, but travel requirements and good sense prevented me from getting up at 3AM again to find a place to watch the launch as I did the first night.

Even though the Endeavor did not launch on early Sunday morning it was fascinating to watch and participate in the throngs of humanity. People came from all over the world to Titusville's route one to camp, park their RV's, drive to and stand and wait for mission control's Cap Com to call the go or no go minutes before the launch. Cape Canaveral is two or three miles across the bay from Titusville. You can see the launch tower clearly and the lights of the space port.

People, who had them, used their aircraft band radios to listen to the chatter at NASA HQ to pilots who reported the cloud ceiling and other conditions that might affect the launch. Other people listened to local radio stations that broadcast all the launches and then turned their car or RV radios to loud so all in the vicinity could hear.

It was magnificent. It was an American experience. There was no boisterous drinking and no being rowdy. There was respect and reverence for the event and even profound regret when the launch was cancelled because of a low cloud ceiling.

Once the scrub decision was announced it was pandemonium to get vehicles out of the ad hoc viewing sights all along the busy road. There were miles and miles of people, cars, and motorcycles trying to get somewhere. The old, the young, families with little children came to see the launch, but then everyone tried to leave at once. There was no police presence that I could see. A distance that normally would take ten minutes to drive took two hours to accomplish. It was wonderful.

It is unfortunate that launches into space these days have become commonplace and media coverage is blasé at best and limited or nothing at worst. I remember when the USSR launched "Sputnik" in the late 1950's. The world was stunned and America was embarrassed that we didn't do it first. We made up for it with the man on the moon project.

Every launch today is a testimony to America's greatness. It is a tribute to the intellect, ingenuity and talent of our people. I didn't see the launch, but then again, I did through the hopes, and awe of the thousands who come to every launch.

More from my travels on the highways and back roads of America. Tomorrow the Gulf Coast heading to New Orleans.

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