I’m Spacey

Space Shuttle Atlantis transported by a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), 1998 (NASA)

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.

This is a space shuttle model situated in the rocket park at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The photo was taken in October 2005 by Michael Fallows.

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.

NASA’s International Space Station website.   About the International Space Station.

Marshall Space Flight’s Center role in the Shuttle and its future role in space flight.

About the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.

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!

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3 Comments

Filed under Airplanes and Aerospace

3 responses to “I’m Spacey

  1. Last post it was the solar system and now this. Someone has space on the brain!

    I clicked the link to the Space Shuttle Cockpit and realized I had already been there. Good link. I used to have a space shuttle simulator that was loads of fun. You’d have to turn around for re-entry and all sorts of things. I wonder why there isn’t a hot simulator for that out on the market today?

    As a kid growing up in the 60’s I’ve always had a thing for space travel and astronauts. The Right Stuff is one of my favorite movies. Even today I save space (har) for the NASA channel on my Roku. And I watch NASA programming about five-year-old steaks sealed in plastic bags in wonderment.

    And I’m officially an honorary volunteer for the manned one-way mission to Mars. I hope they pick me! 🙂

    My dad, like yours, also had a thing for flight. In my case that was passed down. I completed ground school, just for fun, but haven’t had the financial resources to actually get a license yet.

    I’m also sad about the end of the space shuttle. Did you know that Nixon had a hand in steering the program? But I’m also excited about the new Orion spacecraft, the space shuttle “replacement” program. The Orion capsule feels modern and old school all at the same time.

  2. My childhood friend, Lisa, used to talk about her uncle who was an astronaut. She said when he went into space, she’d get to stay home from school. I believe this thought helped propel her through school. We didn’t think much of it until her uncle, Edwin Aldrin, Jr. went to the Moon and back.

  3. What a fascinating post! And the episode about your cat is most uncanny. Also, I thought about your interest in the Monarch butterflies… capacity for long flight endowed by nature. Thanks for a very personal and interesting post.

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