My father, who was an aeronautical engineer and executive for the Boeing Company, was an enthusiast for any machine that flew, and I inherited some of that passion. Few could match my Dad’s love affair with wings!
Twenty years ago, when my father was working on a multi-year Boeing project near Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, my family and I toured the flight center. Astronauts trained there. While we were touring the training area during a space shuttle mission, we heard mission control in Huntsville interacting with the astronauts on the space shuttle. History in action! For three decades and 135 missions, the space shuttle carried cargo and crew into orbit. Now, sadly the Space Shuttle is history.
If you want to experience a little of what it was like to pilot the Space Shuttle, click on Space Shuttle cockpit. Use your mouse to move around the cockpit and to see the upper flight deck. Drag your cursor for horizontal or vertical viewing or use your scroll wheel to zoom in and out.
The technicians talking to the astronauts while we were touring Marshall were part of the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC), a facility that supported Space Shuttle launch, payload and experiment activities at the Kennedy Space Center, International Space Station launch and experiment operations. The HOSC also monitors rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station when a Marshall Center payload is on board.
When we toured the Marshall Space Flight Center, my father showed me a blueprint of the ISS, which had not yet been built. Now that the space shuttle program has been ended, American astronauts have to hitch a ride to get to the ISS, and there have been difficulties with failed launches lately. Here’s a link to a story on the latest problems. Russia to delay space mission due to technical problems. Here’s a story from last year about whether U.S. astronauts can continue to stay on the ISSS. Astronauts May Have to Abandon Space Station
I watched the launches of Endeavour and Atlantis this past year, remembering how we all gathered in my grade school cafeteria to watch the first space flights on a tiny television. When Endeavor launched in May 2011, my deaf cat sped into the living room and sat down in front of the television, watching until the shuttle was well into the sky. It was eerie, as he never does that, not even to watch Animal Planet. When Atlantis was launched in July 2011, I was in an airport. Everyone stood around the televisions, engrossed in the spectacle. How easily we were taking airplane travel for granted, and now with sadness perhaps we were all realizing how we had taken space flight for granted.
Here’s a launch schedule, obviously tentative. Launch schedule to the ISS.
We also toured the nearby U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp (formerly U.S. Space Camp) in Huntsville, which are operated by the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission. Here’s the Space camp website.
We saw a Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird,” a rare and cool sight!