Friday, July 22, 2011

The end of an era!!

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it" 
~ Greg Anderson

I started working at NASA over 30 years ago.  The shuttle was all the rage back then, though we didn't work on it much in my facility.  I saw some of the new shuttle tiles and saw a few checkout tests on those, but we continued testing different types of structures for aircraft.  I remember as an apprentice, several of us brought in our portable TV sets to watch the very first shuttle launch....everything was riding on this launch, I mean EVERYTHING.  We had no administrator at NASA and the vice president wasn't going to appoint one until after the first launch.  If it made it okay, NASA would continue...if not, it didn't look good!!  Mind you, this was before cable TV, so we adjusted the rabbit ears on our portables in the middle of our shop and watch it lift off flawlessly!! It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen!! When it landed, we did the same thing, it almost brought tears to your eyes!! NASA was back in business!!

Since that time, I have seen a whole lot of changes, the shuttle went from being broadcast from the time it was rolled onto the pad until it landed...then it got to be old news, and no one carried the coverage.  I was 3 months pregnant when Challenger came apart, we sat in the cafeteria and everyone watched it on TV, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, it was devastating to us all!! We all remembered exactly where we were when we heard the news!!

We all worked on the repairs, and ran tests on booster rocket joints, we now belonged to the shuttle program.  Once again, when liftoff occurred, it was covered on every channel!!

Then it happened again, we all watched while Columbia came back down to earth in pieces...devastated once again!! We all had more in it this time, so it was even worse, if that is possible.... I had the opportunity to go to Texas to assist in recovering pieces of the shuttle, to help with the reconstruction, so we could find out what happened!! It was and experience I will never forget, and one that I will forever be honored to participate in.  I spent 9 days in and around Palestine Texas, collecting shuttle debris, friends and co-workers covered the area all the way to Louisiana, we all became a true team, all working together to help!! 

A few years later, budgets were getting slashed, if they managed to be approved at all, we had to learn to do more with less. Then they decided it costed too much to do this...and we lost our vision.  It's so sad to think about, it truly is an end of an era, I grew up at NASA and with the Shuttle.  Now we don't get budgets to operate, we have to be innovative without funding and we don't know where we are going....How sad!!  They have begun tearing down operating facilities, and putting up administrative buildings, everything is calculated and modeled, and we don't have the same ownership we used to.  We have to depend on someone else to take us to the space station, or into space....Hey guys, we are (were) NASA!!  So Sad....but I must say, I am very proud to have participated in all of this, but I never saw it launch in person, except one night from Sanibel Island, Hubby and I did get to see it streak across the sky.  We were there again when it came in and I got to see it fly over and hear the sonic booms!! I will miss the Shuttle, and all of the adventures that went with it. I only hope that before I retire....(which hopefully is very soon) that NASA will manage to have a vision and mission that makes sense, that we all will be able to see, and buy into....and that we will finally have a budget!! 

16 foot wind tunnel being torn down
Atlantis final landing

My Vanna White impression!!




  1. It truly is the end of an era. I've watched many launches from my can see it from so far away from the launch pad. I too was pregnant when Challenger went down. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at my uncles house, and we were watching on TV, and looked out the window in time to see it go up...and then....just devastating. You just knew immediately that the launch failed. I can still see it.

    I recommend visiting the Kennedy Space Center to anyone who is a fan of aviation, rockets, and the space program. It is amazing. The size of the rockets, and the shuttle(s) is astounding! We had a great time at KSC.

    I don't know how Titusville will continue, their economy is based around and by KSC and the people who worked there. I hope that wonderful little community can still manage to survive.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of the space shuttle program!

  2. Wow- You were directly involved with such a cool piece of history. What a job! I bet you have some interesting stories to tell. Please share some more sometime. I remember watching when the astronauts walked on the moon - what a moment in time that was! The whole space program is fascinating to me.

  3. Another WOW! Never knew! What a keen history and something rare that you can share with others! Enjoy the memories!

    Appreciate the post!
    Happy Seaside Sunday!

    beachside cottage

  4. Well, I can't say I remember when the Challenger went down, because I was that person you were 3 months pregnant with! But I certainly remember the Columbia, and when you went to Texas to be part of the recovery team.

    I know your career wasn't exactly what you had expected it to be, but you really did get a chance to be a part of a very important piece of American history, and I'm sure your work had an influence on it! It's fitting that the program began and ended around the time your career started and begins to wind down.

    I have always said "my mom works at NASA!" with great pride. I hope you can do the same!

  5. Thanks Jess....for reeling me in!! :)