Saturday, September 22, 2012

Space Shuttle Retired

I spend much of my time looking at records and documents and reading books and newspapers from long past. Every once and a while something happens that reminds me that I am a part of history.

The other day, I had one such moment.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was to be flown to Los Angeles on the back of a 747 jet to become a part of a museum. Mark Kelly was an astronaut to fly on the last Space Shuttle mission and the husband of Congresswoman Gabby Gifford of Arizona. She had been the subject of an assassination attempt that left her severely injured. She suffered a brain injury due to a bullet entering her head. Although she survived the attempt and has recovered much better than expected, she is severely handicapped.

Mark Kelly arranged with NASA to have the Endeavour fly over Tucson on its way to Los Angeles. Her reaction to seeing the Space Shuttle was heart wrenching. I have no idea if his request affected the flight path of the Endeavour as it arrived in California. But the 747 with the Space Shuttle affixed to its top flew to San Francisco before flying to Los Angeles.

I was excited and hoped to see it but I had a class. I asked my husband to photograph the Space Shuttle as it flew over Moffett Field. We didn't have very good communication because he thought that I was joking. I was not because I had an emotional connection to the Space Shuttle Columbia.

I remember the day of the first launch, April 12, 1981. I was working at North American Aircraft Division of Rockwell in El Segundo, California and was pregnant with my daughter. Space Division was very much involved with the space shuttle. The company had installed large screens in the manufacturing area so we all could watch the first launch of the Columbia.

I had some meeting or errand to do at another building before the shuttle was scheduled to be launched. It ran over so I rushed back to the manufacturing building to make sure that I saw the launch. I did. Everyone was so excited.

But the Columbia years later suffered a horrible fate along with her crew. It exploded shortly after launch on February 1, 2003. My daughter was about to graduate from college. Just as she was about enter adult life, the Columbia ended her life.

I would have liked Columbia to be at the museum in Los Angeles rather than Endeavour but I am glad that Los Angeles ended up with one of the few space shuttles.

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