Sunday, May 15, 2011

Endeavour's Final Mission

"...Indeed, all the business of life is to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do; that's what I called 'guess what was at the other side of the hill'."   
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Tribute to the Missions of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

If all continues on schedule with no additional glitches, tomorrow will see the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. She is the baby of the space shuttle fleet, commissioned as a replacement for Challenger which was tragically lost in 1986. This final mission will be her 25th since her maiden voyage in May of 1992 - 19 years of reliable service to her country. She was named in honor (or should I say honour?) of the HMS Endeavour, the British Royal Navy research vessel - hence the British spelling. (Confession - I have spelled this wrong in the past and one day before her final flight, I finally get it right. Better late than nevour).

Proof of the Spelling

Launch is scheduled for Monday, May 16th at 8:56 AM Eastern time from the one remaining shuttle launch pad at Cape Canaveral, 39A. The previous launch attempt on April 29th was scrubbed due to problems with an electronic unit. The folks at a blog called Sentimental Journey posted this ad from 1992, suggesting that the real reason for the delay was that NASA forgot to stock up on batteries (I'd like to note that Rayovac spelled the name wrong in their ad, as well)...

Our family was lucky enough to attend the previous shuttle launch in February - Discovery's final mission. I described the incredible experience and posted launch videos on my blog afterward: As Promised, STS-133 Launch Video. I was eager for my kids to see a launch before the fleet was retired. It was truly memorable for all of us.

The launch tomorrow and then of Atlantis over the summer will regrettably mark the end of NASA's storied manned space program. This has particular significance for those of us here in OUR Cape who have spent all or part of our careers down the road at Goddard Space Flight Center. Anyone who has worked for NASA or a NASA contractor understands the emotional attachment we all have to the space shuttle program. It's been very hard to let go.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend a road trip to Florida to catch that last flight of Atlantis and take in a little NASA history. There will be nothing like it anytime soon nor ever again under NASA's charge. Manned space flight will from here out be in the hands of the public sector. It will be a zoo in Cape Canaveral for tomorrow's Endeavour launch and then for Atlantis over the summer, but well worth the effort if you can get down there. If you miss the launch, you can always take a tour of the space center and pick up a surfing lesson in Cocoa Beach at Ron Jon's Surf Shop.

I will share with you the poem my son wrote for his language arts class following our trip to Florida for the previous launch. He was not thrilled with the homework assignment but found inspiration in what he had witnessed. If I had any doubt that the experience would have an impact on my kids, this showed me otherwise:

Wishing Endeavour and her crew a flawless launch tomorrow followed by a successful mission. Once she lands, she will be prepared for retirement to her new home in LA at the California Science Center. California Dreamin' for a girl who has helped us to see "what was at the other side of the hill."

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