Zenith and Xenon

It was very surreal to witness the RSS rollback after dark in the sweltering heat and swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitos.  It was also very cool to realize that after this singular moment, it would be impossible to ever view a launch in the same way ever again. 

I remember attending many meetings, participating in tons of discussions about how to get people excited about the space program.  Often times, these kinds of questions can leave you befuddled about how to get NASA’s message out.  The simple fact is that the best way to get people excited about NASA is to let them see it up close.  You can’t be indifferent to the achievement that is the NASA Space Shuttle when you are staring right at it. 

So, there we are, bug bitten, sweaty, dirty, grumpy, etc. wondering if the guys that cut in the line were going to get a better position to take pictures.  Suddenly,  everything comes to a stop.  Everything except the RSS itself, which is quietly moving at 20 feet per minute.  This slow but complex move finally reveals the Endeavour in all her glory.  Instantly, you’re a kid again.  I can taste the Tang I used to drink thinking about becoming an astronaut.  I remember creating astronaut costumes out of pajamas.  I remember building a structure out of chairs and blankets that simulated early versions of the Shuttle.  Like a quick rack focus, everything unimportant drops out of focus and all that is clear is brilliant engineering.

I don’t know much, but I know that anyone who has any doubts about what NASA is doing, simply hasn’t been to a space shuttle launch.


14 thoughts on “Zenith and Xenon”

  1. Wait till you feel the the rumble Blair. These things usually make me tear up it’s so beautiful.

    It’s still peaceful as the main engines start…then slowly the sound rolls over you like a wave.

    OH and watch the water ripple from the sound waves! Great fun!

  2. I envy you. I’ve always wanted to see a SST launch for myself, sounds like a moving experience and I’ll be sure to bring the bug spray.

    Safe travel.

    OK HW

  3. Exactly! If all the doubters went to a shuttle launch, well, there wouldn’t be any more doubters.

  4. I had to smile at your “chair & blanket” shuttle – my Gemini capsule was made out of a washing-machine carton. I poked toggle switches and flashlight bulbs through the cardboard & wired it all together. Then I’d sit for hours; flipping switches, saying “Rodger Mission Control – We have apogee at perihelion in oh-two-hundred hours!” Boy, did I think I had the voice of a real astronaut!

    Whenever someone drops that old chestnut, “Name one thing Private Enterprise can’t do better than Government,” I say: NASA.

    And the picture above is what I’m talking about. That is one beautiful bird, and We built her. And we didn’t build her out of fear, like Gemini, or competition, like Apollo; but out of the spirit of exploring the limits of cooperation. (Although I only helped by paying my taxes, lol. But what other American icon can I look at, pat myself on the back, and sincerely feel: Good job, Mike, taxes well paid!)

    I, too, wish we could recapture that spirit of NASA as the best of American culture. I’d buy a poster of a “NASA – 50 Years” logo, surrounded by a montague of the iconic moments of your service, with the caption: “Good Job, America! Taxes Well Paid!” (Seriously – it would be nice to have a reminder that not all taxes are bad, too.)

    Meanwhile – Good Job NASA! Taxes Well Spent!
    Thank you, and Happy Birthday.

  5. This looks really interesting. I’m glad I stumbled on this and intend to read more about what is going on at NASA. It will continue to read and learn and absorb the facts.

  6. Hi Blair,

    I am not a kid, but I would love to witness a Shuttle launch. Especially if it will happen around sunset. They all should happen around sunset and only when the sky is dramatic red 🙂 Just my 2c…
    I am a .


  7. This is a great piece of writing. I haven’t been to a shuttle launch but it is on my do it soon list. Loved your shuttle out of chairs and blankets, very touching childhood memories. Thanks for sharing. I built my starships on paper with pencil or anything I could grab and draw with. My capsule was a yardstick propping up the blanket on my bed into a teardrop shape. I flew with my arms for wings and my legs for liftoff. My shuttle went to the moon, too. One can dream. The dream is still alive and with me everyday. Someday I want to meet Neil Armstrong, another dream. Someday, someday. Better do it soon.

    Mark Twain: Twenty years from now you will be more dissappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did do.

    We all must keep this in mind. Thanks!

  8. Oh! What a nice shot…
    She’s really that beautiful & cool than anyone could imagine & think about. Thanks for sharing this pic & had a glimpse quite up close.
    Certainly! American taxes well spent!…:)


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    The Co-Host

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