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1 Mar 2011 / Julie

we are GO for Launch

Last Thursday I stood in a garden surrounded by a few thousand people and cried. I was crying because I was overwhelmed at the power of human dreams and the awe that comes with doing the impossible. I was watching space shuttle Discovery take it’s final journey with 6 passengers into space – that amazing place that holds so much wonder that we still know so little about.

For the crew, the journey started years ago but for me, it really got started last November. Discovery was set to launch on November 2nd and I had tickets. We went down to Florida to enjoy one of the last shuttle launches and it was postponed. and postponed. and postponed. First electrical issues then tanking issues. Finally, last Thursday, we gathered at the Visitor’s Center with a few thousand other people armed with blankets and chairs and sun screen to witness history. We watched the big screen as the crew got into the shuttle; listened as they did com checks and asked questions of Astronaut XX who was there on a stage telling us what space is like.

Launch is almost here. Go for launch checks starts and everyone is GO except for the RSO. No-Go citing “Display issues.” My breath catches in my chest and everyone around us goes quiet. Well, quieter… there were a lot of kids there who are rarely quiet.

The Range Safety Officer is the person who detonates the shuttle and rockets if something goes wrong during launch and they’re headed for a populated area. Not a job i’d want. ever.

They continue the countdown until the planned hold at 5 minutes to give the RSO additional time to fix the issue. When they announced the Go for Launch from the RSO, the crowd explodes into cheers. Discovery will finally launch.

With two seconds left in the launch window, the shuttle launches. The awe starts. I see the giant screen with the actual launch and a few seconds later it clears the trees and i see this:

Launch.

it was more amazing than i expected. in fact, i’m in such awe i forget how to work my camera and end up not taking video when i think i am. but this person did:

as a matter of fact, that’s pretty much exactly what i saw. this video was shot by someone in front of me. which i know because when they pan around at the crowd, i catch a glimpse of myself wiping away tears.

i did capture some shots when Discovery was close to orbit. and so did other people.

Now back in Maryland, i find myself listening to NASA TV while i’m working. Today, watching the crew on their space walk fixing the ammonia tank and doing other things, they joked and enjoyed just like anyone does at work. Except for the fact that all of us were remaining still on a planet that seemed to zoom past them in view of their helmet cams. Best job ever.

I’m not going to tie this into anything library or tech related, i just wanted to share my experience with you. But I do hope that you’re able to experience something at least once that takes your breath away like this did for me. Life is made better by these moments of awe. In fact, i hope that every day takes your breath away.

Go for Launch.

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