Friday, September 21, 2012

To OV-105 Endeavour: Farewell Old Friend.

Farewell Old Friend,

For an old friend, she was the youngest in the fleet. Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Columbia, Enterprise and, of course, Endeavour, they were their own type of beautiful.  Originally the shuttle program was a glorified space trucking system.  Taking supplies and experiments to and from the International Space Station.  After the first few initial space flights, everything began to seem ordinary.  The shuttle would travel to space, perform it's mission and then glide back through the atmosphere.  Catch a ride back to the Kennedy Space Center and repeat.

But Then

I remember watching President Reagan giving the speech honoring our brave Astronauts who, as he put it
"Slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of god."
I remember my elementary school teacher telling our class that she has applied for NASA's teacher in space program, the one which Christa McAuliffe got into, and died riding Challenger.  I remember that day in 1986,  we watched the Challenger launch in class because it carried, a teacher. I had watched many shuttle launches with my father, I knew something was wrong, 72 seconds after lift off when she began to break up it wasn't the boosters separating it was something else.  I remember in my class our teacher didn't know what to say to twenty 3rd graders who just watched 7 astronauts die.  I didn't think this goodbye would be that difficult to write but it was very sad, and still brings a tear to my eye.

Endeavour got her Name

prior to mission STS-127, May 31, 2009
I participated when NASA later sponsored a naming campaign for the next shuttle that was just called "the orbiter" by the news outlets.  We were instructed to find and research an old sailing vessel that contributed in some way to exploration.  Always having loved pirates, especially Black Beard, I wrote an essay asking NASA to name the new orbiter the Queen Anne's Revenge, I still think that would have been really cool.

Endeavour, named after the HMS Endeavour gained a fitting name.  the HMS Endeavour rounded cape horn and explored Australia.  She was commanded by Lieutenant James Cook (later Captain Cook) and she observed the 1769 transit of Venus.  But I still like the Queen Anne's Revenge.

The unfortunate result of the closing of the shuttle program is that NASA now does not have a manned space transport.  And what is truly sad about this, is due to  massive budget cuts for the past 31 years NASA's manned flight program consisted only of low earth orbit flights.  

We Can't Stop Here

Not to take any glory from a  program that has yielded so many achievements.  Achievements which have allowed us to learn so much.  And still with continuing budget cuts and the federal government's inability to act in the interest of our future, we still have not put a man on Mars, and we have not returned to the Moon.

 Quoting Robert Zubrin
"It shouldn't be humans to Mars in 50 years. It should be humans to Mars in 10"
And then after that, lets land on Titan or an asteroid.  Lets discover if there is life under the icy surface of Europa.

My great hope is that with the last flight of Endeavour, and so many people watching the skies, so many tweets and so many instagram photos.  So many facebook posts and so many news reporters covering the shuttle's last chapter.  My hope is that we do not lose the excitement we felt watching OV-105 taking her final flight.

We must go on we must enter deep space and we must succeed.



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