Monday, January 13, 2014

To Infinity… And Beyond!

During my recent trip to L.A., the family and I went to the Science Center to see the space shuttle Endeavor. I remember watching launches as a kid, and the thrill of thinking that men and women were actually going into space. I dreamed of being an astronaut, so I was excited to see the shuttle up close and in person. I do, however, think that Houston, of all places, should have gotten one of the shuttles.

Sweet ship
The line to see the shuttle was long. There was a wait in one area, then a walk and a wait through another area that showed a shuttle potty (there are an awful lot of straps involved), a display about eating in space, a mock-up of the control center, a timeline of Endeavor's missions, and a video of bringing the shuttle to the building that now houses it (talk about a wide load). And then, finally, we entered a large, corrugated building, and BOOM! Her nose was right there.

Endeavor looks like it's been through a lot of flights. A lot. She reminded me of an old car with a couple hundred thousand miles on it. But despite all the abuse, she's still a beautiful ship. Outdate for sure, but beautiful.

People took pictures. Lots and lots of picture. I did too, experimenting with different angles. I walked
under the shuttle. I wanted to reach out and touch her, and so did other people. A really tall guy stretched up on his toes, fingers reaching, and he came short. I suppose they can't have grubby fingerprints all over it. A timeline of all the shuttles' missions filled one wall and the better part of another. One of the engines was on display. That one engine was bigger than my car.

I felt quite a bit of nostalgia while walking around that hangar. I was sad when I heard the shuttles were retiring, not because they shouldn't have been (they're old, and they should be retired), but because NASA didn't have a ship ready to take the shuttles' place (thought they're working on it now). I don't think most people realize how much of what we use has come from their experiments, like memory foam, solar energy, and LED's. (My back thanks you for a good night's sleep, NASA.)

NASA is working on a new ship design. And of course, later this year, if all goes according to plan, Richard Branson will take a trip on his own aircraft into outer space. I hope a combination of privately funded research and NASA's own research will yield a future conducive to space exploration, living, and discovery.

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