Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Today, we saw a miracle....

Yesterday and today, Jeff & I were the guests of Johnson Space Center for the launch of STS-120, better known as Discovery, which will be taking Node 2 (Harmony) up to the International Space Station. Today, we watched the spectacular launch from the bleachers at Banana River, roughly 3.5 miles from Pad 39A. Yesterday, we toured parts of Kennedy Space Center. Throughout the entire tour, NASA treated us wonderfully, giving us access to a wide range of information and experiences to help us understand where the space program is today and where it will be in the next few decades.

Part of the reason we went to this launch was to join friends of ours. Jeff knows an actual rocket scientist, the steely-eyed missile man Randy Morgan (shades of Sy Liebergot, who was played by Clint Howard in Apollo 13), who's a TOPO (Trajectory Operations Officer) for the International Space Station. We were able to join Randy, his wife Cathleen, and their friend Jo for the launch. Randy was celebrating a well-earned Employee of the Year award (and his birthday) today, and sharing the launch experience with them made an outstanding day even more special to us.
After we came home from the launch, we relaxed a bit and I spent some time walking on the beach. (Yes, I figured out why Cocoa Beach is named Cocoa BEACH.) I stood in the surf, looking out at the water and up at the moon. I thought about how much teamwork it took to get the shuttle into space and how much it takes to keep everyone safe aboard the International Space Station. I thought about how many astronauts have commented about looking down on the earth and seeing the whole planet, without borders dividing the continents into countries. I thought about all of the discoveries that NASA has given us, and I wondered about the new discoveries that NASA will make in the years to come. Then I looked out to sea again, and up at the moon, and I thought about the human need to explore. I can't wait to see what our new explorations will bring us.

If you'd like to get a sense for what today's launch was like, click here. And thank you, NASA, for a two-day experience that Jeff & I will never forget.

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