Last Chance to See (Part 13)

And this computer, which was called the Earth, was so large that it was frequently mistaken for a planet—especially by the strange apelike beings who roamed its surface, totally unaware that they were simply part of a gigantic computer program.

And this is very odd, because without that fairly simple and obvious piece of knowledge, nothing that ever happened on the Earth could possibly make the slightest bit of sense.

~Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Sleep deprivation in the news room

As we try to sort through our Space Coast adventures, one thing that has surprised us and only now started making the slightest bit of sense is that we have become part of the story. The story about the end of the space shuttle program and about the last launch last week is about technology. It’s also about science and economics. As we’ve written in other posts, what interests us in our topics is often the people and the ideas that people have. The (perhaps temporary) end of U.S. manned spaceflight is about the astronauts and engineers, but it’s also about those of us strange apelike creatures who were born into the space age and grew into adulthood with the space shuttle.

In November, we contacted the “science dude” at the O.C. Register to let him know two locals were going to see Discovery launch. It wasn’t pressing news, but he spent some time talking with us and wrote up a good story. See that HERE. Of course, Discovery didn’t actually launch in November while we were there, and we couldn’t get back to the Space Coast for its eventual launch because we were at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference having a great time with thousands of other writers.

Anna catches a rocket

So we were a little surprised when he gave us another call a week before Atlantis was scheduled to launch. See that article HERE. Lofty Ambitions gets the last word. We also got a brief mention in the post-launch piece HERE.

Last Tuesday, as we were gathering some belongings for our trip to the Space Coast, someone from the newsroom at the BBC Online contacted us. They were looking for bloggers who were going to be at the space shuttle launch, and they’d run across Lofty Ambitions. Were we interested in providing content for their coverage? Sure!

They sent us a list of questions, asking for 300-400 words of response. We answered their questions and pointed them to our Lofty Ambitions channel on YouTube. You can see our write-up and video HERE.

Tweeting from KSC

On launch day, BBC Online followed Doug’s tweets (and revised them using British spelling), along with those of other tweeps watching the launch. BBC Online also included one of our photos. You can see all that HERE. Citizen journalists? Well, not exactly, because we were actual journalists with media credentials. Content providers? Maybe, but that sounds drab. What exactly are we doing?

In a photo slideshow of the last launches of each remaining orbiter, BBC Online included our photo of the STS-135 crew during the walkout just hours before Atlantis launched. That’s a press event we almost missed, but we ended up getting some amazing shots. Sandy Magnus seemed the most enthusiastic, almost bursting with excitement. See that HERE.

The post-launch ponderings of the bloggers that BBC Online followed are HERE. Lofty Ambitions writes, “Then came the sound, the increasingly bright blaze of light, and the brief flash of heat as the shuttle struggled to clear the launch tower, all reinforced the fact that you were seeing something spectacular. Very quickly, people were gasping and shaking from the external force and the internal emotion.” Indeed, the humidity in Florida on July 8 made the launch an especially visceral experience.

Holding hands

“Your Week in Pictures,” a BBC weekly retrospective, featured a photo of the Lofty Ambitions duo in front of Atlantis on the launch pad the afternoon before blast off. We were soaking wet from a torrential downpour while we were waiting for the press buses to start loading, and the mosquitoes had started biting. But we were happy as all get out to be only yards away from the space shuttle just before the last-ever mission. See that one HERE.

We found ourselves in a new role this past week, with coverage locally and across the Atlantic. This responsibility or opportunity extended, of course, naturally from our work on this blog. We have more to say about aviation and spaceflight, science of the twentieth century and beyond, and writing as a couple. It’s heartening to know there’s an audience of other strange apelike beings roaming the surface out there.

To top all of this off, as we were polishing up this post today, the August issue of Air & Space Magazine arrived. Our article about the Roger and Roberta Boisjoly Collection in Chapman University’s archives is on page 12. It’s not available online, but you remember bookstores, don’t you?


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