Posted by: Bonnie Anderson | July 8, 2011

Godspeed, Crew of Atlantis


Since April 12, 1981, we have witnessed the launch of the space shuttle from our own neighborhood streets.  We have the television on for the minute of the launch and then doors open and we hit the streets to gaze east searching for the familiar contrail.  We have been treated to beautiful sights, with the one horrible exception that will forever be etched in my memory.  I’ll always remember the Challenger.

One would think that after 134 missions it would become familiar enough to lose its wonder, but not to me.  I still watched in awe as STS-135 launched from Pad 39A at 11:29 this morning.  The space program was part of my upbringing.  My dad worked for the Air Force in communications and would often travel for the Gemini and Apollo missions in that capacity.  He was familiar with not only the programs, but also with the astronauts themselves.  I have fond memories of watching TV as the Apollo spacecraft would splashdown.  We held our breath as we waited for the hatch door to open, and we cheered when the astronauts emerged and waved to the world proving that they were okay.  These men (and women) embodied the pioneer spirit.  It made us proud to be Americans.

It is sad to think that this is the final launch of the shuttle program.  The program was announced by President Nixon in January of 1972.  Space Shuttle orbiter Columbia(STS-1) launched from Pad 39A on April 12, 1981, marking the first launch of the program.  STS stands for Space Transportation System, but we commonly just call it the space shuttle.  John Young was the commander and Robert Crippen was the pilot.  They spent two days in space as the first of four test flights. 

That seems like a lifetime ago, and in many cases, it was.  I had just had my second baby, so my kids have never known life without manned space travel.  So today, one last time I offer Godspeed to the brave astronauts aboard the Atlantis.  I usually shed a tear when the shuttle goes up, but today it’s a bit more emotional for me as I witness the end of an era.


  1. Bonnie, I cried today too, more than I expected. We are blessed to have enjoyed watching each launch from our street with neighbors. I, too, will miss the contrail; especially the predawn ones!

    • It’s part of our American heritage for sure. Did you see the wonderful pics on NASA’s site today. Beautiful. My new screensaver.

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