Wednesday, July 13, 2005


After two-and-a-half years of being grounded, the shuttle program will return to flying status today at 3:51 pm EDT.

STS-114 will be piloted by James Kelly, and the Mission Commander will be Eileen Collins.

If you've never witnessed a launch, I encourage you to put it on your list of things to-do before you die. It's an awesome thing to see.

When I was 16, I moved to Titusville, Florida, to stay with my brother. Florida was another world compared to Illinois. Hot, muggy, and the bugs were out of control. Other than those few pesky items, it was beautiful. The space center is several miles away from Titusville, across the Indian River. But you can see the rocket on the launch pad at night because they bathe it in flood lights. Pretty cool.

Anyway, I was very excited about seeing the launch. I couldn't wait. However, I worked at a gas station at night and I asked for the night off so I could go to the Indian River shore line to watch. My boss wasn't inclined to allow this. I made attempts to get someone to cover my shift, but after a week, no luck. I really wanted to watch the blast-off as it sat on the pad, but if I had to work that wouldn't be possible.

On the night of the launch, I went to work and again asked for time off. After all, this was a big deal to me and I figured I wouldn't have another chance. The reply was still "no."

It was late at night on December 7th, 1972, when Apollo 17's Atlas rocket roared to life; the power of the boost phase literally turned night into day. The rumble shook the ground and even broke windows.

A few minutes later, Cernan, Evans, and Schmitt were safely in orbit and on their way to the moon. As it turned out, it was Apollo's last moon mission.

After it was all over with, I was very proud to have witnessed one of our Nation's greatest accomplishments, even though I was unemployed.

***For all the details about today's shuttle launch, click here.

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