I’ve been trying to come up with some adequate words to describe my #NASATweetup experience, and the final launch of the space shuttle program. I’ve also been finding out how exceedingly difficult that is. To say that there is no cynicism in my thoughts would be complete denial. For some reason throughout this whole time, I remember back to when I was looking at the old notes of Lettie Carson at the NYPL. Lettie fought the Penn Central valiantly in an attempt to save the Upper Harlem. Eventually, she and the HVTA lost, as we all know the fate of the Upper Harlem. But throughout the fight Carson’s thoughts were apparent on paper – if the rail line is lost, some day we’re probably going to regret it. Despite the disappointment of many people, the United States no longer has a working human spaceflight program. Perhaps one day we will look back on that decision as a mistake. Apparently the desire to explore, and the pursuit of knowledge are no longer as important to the United States as they once were.

For the record, I’m not incredibly depressed about the ending of the space shuttle program – the shuttle had a decent lifespan in terms of technology. The fact that we have no program to replace the shuttle with, that is the depressing part. The fact that the final STS-135 mission had a smaller crew because we would have no means of rescuing them if there was ever a problem is also depressing. But what is most depressing is that we, the country that put men on the moon, now have to pay the Russians to take our astronauts to space – as we have no method to do so ourselves.

Despite all that, however, there are many people at NASA that still have an optimistic outlook on the future. Not only did I get the chance to meet many other space fans, but many interesting people who work for NASA – including a few astronauts. I was amazed at how happy everyone seemed, and how much they all seemed to love their jobs – not just the astronauts, even the regular everyday NASA folks found in the cafeteria (I wonder how many of them, now that the shuttle has landed, are no longer employed). But, as one would expect, the highlight of the tweetup was definitely getting to see the final launch of the space shuttle program from the press area. I will not even attempt to put that into words.

Knowing my tendency to be verbose, and the simple fact that if I keep trying to find the perfect translation of emotions into words this might never get posted, I’m not going to write any more than I already have. Below you’ll find a few of the photos I took on my trip. I don’t think any of them are particularly spectacular, but they are mine, and I was a part (albeit a very small part) of that moment in history.


Things I think we should not forget – for one, the words of one of our great presidents:

Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward. So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait… This country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward – and so will space…

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept…

And to all those kids out there that dream about being being an astronaut – don’t let your hopes be dashed. You might want to make it a point to learn a little Russian, though.

5 Responses

  1. Eric R. says:

    I think it isn’t depression, more just a general unsettling feeling, as with a lot of thing that come to an end (or that’s what I’ve been feeling since I’ve gotten back). An uncertain future makes people uncomfortable. But people have to remember that there was a gap between the Apollo and Shuttle programs. The Apollo program was even cut short, and one of it’s Saturn Vs used to launch Skylab, which was eventually de-orbited after 6ish years (which will be the same fate as the ISS will have in 10 or so years, maybe we need to start preparing for that).

    Anyway, there is a flag in the ISS that flew with STS-1 and STS-135 that a lot of people are certain will come back to earth when a manned space flight from the US happens again, albeit probably commercial.

    Oh, and just to bring it back, the orbiters are as old as the New Haven Line cars, and everyone have been antsy to get rid of those.

  2. Al Cyone says:

    Maybe the kids should start learning Chinese instead of Russian?

    In any case, I trust you know how lucky you were. I remember seeing John Glenn in his Manhattan ticker-tape parade (back when there was still some real ticker-tape lying around) and I don’t think it ever occurred to me that there would come a time when the U.S. would not have a manned space program.

    I would have liked to have seen a launch but it never happened. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. human says:

    that is quite an impressive set of pictures. i don’t think people understand just how big that hangar is. i was once told that a single stripe on the flag is wider than a six-lane highway.

    from what i understand, nasa is not abandoning putting people in space. it’s overall outlook is that low-earth orbit (leo) is now achievable commercially, so let the private folks commercialize that while nasa goes further into the solar system, trying to put a person first on an asteroid and then on mars. that is really exciting to me and, honestly, it’s where a lot more interesting questions about the formation of the solar system can be answered. also, let’s not forget that all the while, nasa will be funding private entities in their quest for leo space transportation so it hasn’t completely abandoned that area either.

    yes, it is a bit depressing that we can’t keep a shuttle or shuttle-like program in place while we pursue the deeper solar system. yes, companies like spacex and virgin galactic won’t be operational as a substitute for the shuttle for some time. however, if i put myself in the place of nasa’s leaders and, given all their constraints, force myself to pick either leo or asteroids and mars, i’d go with asteroids and mars.

  4. matt says:

    i love the way you write. i also love the way you photog. no bullshit just the real deal. who needs filters? i’m glad you got to see this. i personally don’t even really care about NASA, maybe that’s because i’ve been to NASA here in houston and it’s own civilians let it rot, but everyone is entitled to be a nerd at something, us in common with trains, maybe liberal politics, but it was a treat to view these photos. to see something fly into space like that is remarkable. if it wasn’t for the stupid wars in the middle east that were perpetuated on bullshit, NASA would be making that machine to Mars. that’s really the only out of space thing i would like to see in my lifetime. a person touching Mars soil. anyway talk to you more on twitter. love it all.

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