The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our First Shuttle Launch

I have always wanted to see a shuttle launch up close ever since I was a child. I can remember watching launches on television with awe and wonder and I can remember watching the Challenger blow up in real time. I remember the shock and horror we all felt in my fourth grade classroom and I can remember our Principal, Sister Elaine coming on the loudspeaker to lead us all in prayer directly following that tragedy.

A shuttle launch is something that almost everybody can appreciate and stand in awe of. For this reason, I wanted to share that first time experience with my son. I wanted to sit right next to him, waiting in anticipation and bursting with excitement, so when the Discovery launch had to be rescheduled due to a hydrogen gas leak, it provided the perfect opportunity for us to enjoy this experience.

We left West Palm Beach around 2:30 in the afternoon and drove up I-95 to Titusville for about two hours. As soon as we got off the highway, I made sure to stop at a gas station and fill up our tank, because I knew traffic was going to be a nightmare when the launch was over. I also made sure we both used the bathrooms, because after doing some research, I found that Spaceview Park does not have facilities and being that there were only two of us, we could not leave our spot to find a bathroom.

After we had taken care of our "business", we drove a few more miles to the park and when we arrived, we could see the entire area was already bustling with tons of people and cars. It took a few minutes to find a parking space, get out our chairs, coolers and entertainment bags, then we began walking to the park to find our perfect viewing spot.

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The south side of the park was already overcrowded; but, we were very lucky to find some prime viewing area on the north side. We only had one row in front of us and they had camera's set up on tripods, so the space was not packed with people. We set up our chairs and arranged our bags and coolers strategically in front of us to prevent anybody from trying to encroach on our space and sat down to wait.....wait for 7:43pm to arrive.

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It was amazing how many people had small children with them and how they were all able to sit and wait for such a long period of time! For us, I had carefully planned a few things to do. We had a deck of cards, books, small toys and friendly chit chat to keep us entertained. We also had a nice array of snacks, drinks and sandwich fixins to provide a nice picnic dinner while waiting for the big moment to arrive.

There were so many people all around us! Behind us, there was a large family from India and right next to us was a man from Michigan who had scheduled his vacation so that he could see the shuttle launch. Many of the other people around us had never seen a launch before and were just as excited as we were and some of them had seen launches before and were there to take pictures and video's they could sell for money. A few overzealous photographers even set their tripods up in the intercoastal and stood in knee high water for hours waiting for the launch to take place.

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As the time got close, it seemed everybody was on their feet. The level of anticipation in the crowd was sky rocketing and everybody was on pins and needles. Soon, we all began to watch the time and we were lucky enough to have a woman nearby who was keeping track of the NASA countdown from her phone. With only four minutes to go, I took a quick video clip of Justice so I could share the excitement with you.

From this point on, Justice kept asking me "How much longer?" about every thirty seconds. We could hardly contain ourselves as the minutes ticked by. I turned to Justice and said "Can you imagine what it must feel like for the astronauts in the shuttle right now? Can you imagine what they are thinking and how they must have butterflies in their stomachs?" He looked at me and shook his head, while the man from Michigan answered "I can't even begin to understand what they must be feeling."

Then it happened....5,4,3,2,1, LIFTOFF!

In the video, you can hear the wonder and excitement of not only us, but those around us as well. It was awe inspiring and for many people, a once in a lifetime experience.

Its kind of hard to see; but, in the picture below if you look to the left of the brilliant smoke, you will see a tiny dot. That dot is the actual space shuttle. Separation had already occurred when I took this picture.

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We watched the sky until the shuttle was completely out of view then sat down to soak up the experience while allowing the crowd to disperse behind us. After a few minutes a path had cleared, so we packed up our belongings and headed back to our car. Once there I fixed us a few more sandwiches, then we patiently stated our journey home in stop and go traffic.

Justice was "in bed" by the time we reached I-95 safely buckled in his booster seat leaning on a pillow and covered with a blanket while I attentively watched the road and drove back to West Palm Beach.

All in all, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and even Justice agreed that all the waiting was totally worth it!

PS I found this video on youtube of the cockpit view of the Discovery launch on July 4, 2006!

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posted by Mary Gerber at 3/16/2009


Totally awesome! Thanks for sharing - I have never seen a shuttle launch live, either. I saw the Challenger explode on TV while I was moving into my just bought house in NYS!

March 16, 2009 at 5:28 PM  

Yikes! I scream in horror. I am OLD! Mary, you were in 4th grade when the Challenger blew up? I was walking across my college campus (Auburn University) and listening to it on my Walkman (anybody remember those?). What a sad and terrible event, oh thank goodness this last launch was picture perfect. Trevor, Laurie and I watched it from in front of our place, even in Palm beach Gardens the image was stunning.

Glad you had such a great time.

Bob C. from Den 5 Cub Scouts

March 17, 2009 at 10:59 AM  

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