Last Chance to See (Part 1)

NOTE: All photos in this post were take by us during our most recent trip to Kennedy Space Center.

STS-135 Crew with Atlantis

Readers of Lofty Ambitions are likely to think of Douglas Adams when they see or hear the number 42. That’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. As writers, we are actually glad that big questions don’t have simple answers.

We saw Douglas Adams when another of his books came out in 1992 and we were living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time. Last Chance to See, co-authored with Mark Carwardine (who has written more than forty books), chronicles disappearing wildlife and wilderness. Adams impressed us with more than his reading performance and quirky humor (we expected that) but also with his warmth and affection for those who’d assembled to hear about the most endangered species in the world.

We have adopted Adams’s title for our Lofty Ambitions series about the last space shuttle mission, STS-135, scheduled to launch on Friday, July 8, 2011. We’re taking an interpretive leap with this title. The space shuttle is on the verge of extinction as a functioning ecosystem of machinery, people, and procedures. One of the reasons that we’ve invested so much of this past year witnessing shuttle launches, interviewing people associated with the space program, and reporting and making meaning of what we’ve found is because, whether you love or hate the space shuttle, the launch of Atlantis is the last chance to see.

Atlantis rolls out of Orbiter Processing Facility

You may be interested in reviewing our previous posts about the space shuttle. The final post in our “A Launch to Remember” series about STS-134 and Endeavour’s last launch includes links to all the posts in that series; click HERE for that. Plus, we posted a retrospective of photos HERE. Our earlier series on our fruitful not-launch trip to the Space Coast for Discovery’s last launch is called “Countdown to the Cape”; click HERE to see that series and some related posts. We also have three interesting posts about astronauts HERE, HERE, and HERE. Browse the blog for more, if you’re interested.

We’ve noticed, over the last several days, however, that Lofty Ambitions is no longer one of the few places to find somewhat in-depth coverage of the end of the space shuttle program. Today, we begin our series “Last Chance to See” with a sample of links to what other people are saying. Get your fill of that quickly. Seriously, click on some of these links below to see what all the hubbub is about! Then check back here everyday over the next couple of weeks for our commentary, photos, and videos at Lofty Ambitions.

Our favorite recent article, of course, is in the O.C. Register because Lofty Ambitions gets a mention in “With final flight, shuttles soar into history,” and Anna gets the last word. Read that HERE.

We also want to give a nod to Marcia Dunn, an AP reporter we’ve seen at news briefings at Kennedy Space Center. She always has an important question and a follow-up. You can see her byline at USAToday and in local papers because she’s always there to cover NASA. One of her articles this week was picked up at MSNBC and Huffington Post. Read “Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew” HERE or “NASA’s Final Four” HERE.

We read “NASA endangering space station…” at The Washington Post and felt compelled to comment. The space shuttle program has had its detractors, as did the Apollo program, but the more we learn about the International Space Station, the more impressed we are with that collaborative accomplishment. Read the article HERE to find out the practical concerns that former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft and first space shuttle pilot Bob Crippen have about the future safety and longevity of the ISS.

An article at the L.A. Times talks about the 358 space shuttle astronauts and offers a sense of the range of smart, quirky, hard-working people they are. Read that piece HERE.

Another, somewhat personal piece appears at The New York Times. Click HERE for Dennis Overbye’s article.

Atlantis rolls over to the Vehicle Assembly Building

A separate article at NYT focuses on the workforce and the future, two things we’ve been thinking about and will address more in the next few weeks. Read that article HERE.

There’s another interesting piece at Huffington Post that talks about the attitudes of Charlie Bolden, the Administrator of NASA, and Mark Kelly, an astronaut we’ve written about (see links to our astronaut posts above). Check out the blog post “NASA administrator breaks down over those lost…” HERE.

Vrrroooom, main engines

Space.com, which covers the space shuttle all the time, did a fun Independence Day piece, recapping what they deem the five most patriotic shuttle missions. See their commentary and photos HERE.

The Brits are weighing in too. Click HERE for a piece in The Guardian that has a bunch of other great links.

If you’d rather listen than read, NPR’s Weekend Edition and Talk of the Nation had segments too. Click HERE for Weekend Edition and HERE for Talk of the Nation.

If you’d rather watch than read, CNN aired a documentary called “Beyond Atlantis” on Sunday. We haven’t seen it yet, but it’ll replay on Friday at 10p.m. ET. You can find information HERE.

4 thoughts on “Last Chance to See (Part 1)

  1. Stopping by from SheWrites today. I grew up in Orlando so space launches have some sentimental value for me. I have always been intrigued by the space shuttle program. The sonic booms used to regularly wake me up from a good nap.

    1. It’s funny how things become a part of our daily lives. Some of our students didn’t realize the space shuttle was still flying. Even those who had take it for granted, when they heard it was ending, were saddened by what that might mean.

  2. Many of us NASA folk are having trouble letting go. My family and I will be there on Friday and Saturday which hopefully will be sufficient to see the launch. I wrote about it in my latest blog post and included links to previous posts about our experience at the last Discovery launch including photos and videos. Fingers crossed for Atlantis to get off the pad Friday or Saturday.

    1. I’m glad you plan to be there. It’s exciting for us at Lofty Ambitions, but there’s an ache in our chests too. We can only imagine what it’s like for all the NASA folks directly involved.

      When we were there for Endeavour’s launch, it was clear that the Kennedy Space Center workers from top to bottom were incredibly proud of the accomplishments the space shuttle has made.

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