Archive for July, 2009

Ponderings on the 40th Anniversary of the Moonwalk

Posted in News, Personal on July 22, 2009 by sharizellers
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The ORIGINAL Moonwalk, that is.  Yes, here is where I get to admit to being somewhat of a space geek, NASA junkie, and all things related to men in rockets going to the moon.  I was watching the anniversary special on Discovery channel and realized that I still get so nostalgic about an event that I wasn’t even alive to see!  So, I give you a peek into my affection with  that which I’ve always loved and been proud of – our American experience and love affair – triumphant, rocky, and tragic at times – with the space program.

Growing up, my grandparents lived a “stones throw away” from Cape Canaveral in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  Before I came along, it’s been said that the astronauts even jaunted down to NSB to play and race cars (they liked their cars like they liked their rockets – fast as they could be).  My grandparents had a front row seat to all the goings on during the “Space Race”, the global rush to be the first to the moon.  This means they also got to see the painful sacrifices made, too.  Some folks thought we were crazy to do what we were doing and spend money on such a venture when there were people to protect during the cold war…hmmm.

Any way, I heard the stories, the newspaper clippings and we had the local souvenirs and paraphernalia that came with the craze that swept the nation but particularly the small, once sleepy beach side towns that were on the east coast of Florida – what soon became known as the “Space Coast”.  There were even special stamps issued to commemorate the different Apollo missions that my grandmother collected – I own them now that she has passed.  So, I got swept up, too even though the race had been won by the time I was born just two years later.

What started with the race to the moon soon culminated in another space-craze as I became an elementary school student.  This was the beginning of the Space Shuttle program.  A reusuable space vehicle that would be able to do so many experiments and even complete the dream of the International Space Station – a joint mission of several nations.  While I never really envisioned becoming an astronaut (some how I knew I was an artist, not a scientist or pilot-type), I was fascinated with this extension of the space program that I could now watch play out during my time.  When I first remember visiting the Kennedy Space Center in the bicentennial year of 1976, the Space Shuttle program was very close to launch – literally -only five years away.  The program was something out of science fiction at the time we heard about it!  And then on April 12, 1981, the first Shuttle launched.  Like many of America’s school children, it became an exciting ritual when another launch was announced and we got to pull TV’s into our classroom to watch each one – it was an event!  An event we eventually took for granted…

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As I moved onto high school, the Space Shuttle program moved on, too.  Now, they were auditioning and interviewing for non-astronauts to become part of the Shuttle crew.  A school teacher was to go up on a mission and thousand (or millions?) of teachers applied for the position.  At our high school in Chamblee, GA, we championed our beloved art teacher, Mr. Dave Smiley, to be chosen to go on the mission. While he didn’t make it, we were still proud of the certificate he received in recognition and he hung it in his office.  Little did we know that later, we would be so glad he was not chosen.  As a nation, we suffered a loss that had not been experienced in 25 years.  It was not right.  It was painful and felt like failure. And we plugged onwards.

Then, as an adult, I was introduced to someone that worked at NASA.  I drove to Titusville several times to watch launches – daytime and evening.  This was post-911 and security prevented me from shooting the kind of images that I grew up seeing.  I had the knowledge and the equipment but just not the proximity I yearned for.  This is the price of freedom we pay.  I still enjoyed the entire event and the amazing effects that the shuttle contrail would leave in the sky for hours after launch.

At some point after Steven and I met, he mentioned that he had never seen a shuttle launch (or any launch for that matter) in person.  I, of course, dug out my film images that had been scanned and shared them with him. That led to a planning session (where he discovered that I knew waaaaay too much for a girl about when the shuttle launches each year, etc… ;o) ) and we decided to make the quick jaunt to the coast to see one of the last eleven launches of what we now know as the Space Shuttle.

This was last March and we got to see a pre-dawn launch of STS-123 at about 2:30 am, March 11, 2008.  A cloud bank rolled in right before launch that didn’t hinder the rocket but left us with not much to see after about 10 seconds or so.  I still love the effect – we should have video taped it now that I think of it!  It was still pretty amazing the way it lit up the clouds and then the clouds served as a giant diffuser casting an eerie glow all across the Indian River.


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Only seven Shuttle Launches to go before this part of our history is gone.  That’s right – they’ve developed a safer, more cost effective way of launching the Shuttle Orbiter into orbit around the Earth so there will not be the glorious, although be it dangerous, rocket launches.  Manned launches may be just a part of our history that we will experience in video and photos much like I enjoy watching the historical moonwalk today.

I want to go see at least one more launch.  This time I will rent a bigger lens. ;o)