#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Free Space

The day was April 28th, 1989. I had been living in Central Florida for seven months, and finally, my day off coincided with a scheduled launch of the space shuttle. That morning, I got in my car for the approximately 50-mile drive from Kissimmee to Kennedy Space Center.

As I neared the base, traffic was backed up, and while I don’t remember for certain, I was probably hearing on the radio that the parking lots were full. Like hundreds of other people, I pulled over and parked on the side of the road.

I got out of the car and pulled out my 35mm camera. Someone else waiting nearby pointed out that we could see Atlantis on the launch pad, way off in the distance. I didn’t have a zoom lens, so what you see in the picture was pretty much what it looked like in real life. Very tiny. Still, since I had been living in Central Florida, NASA had launched shuttles three times, and I knew they were visible from 50-70 miles away. I figured it would be spectacular from a couple of miles away.

People had their radios turned up, so we could hear the countdown. Gosh, I was excited to finally witness a shuttle launch “up close.”

Then at T -31 seconds, they scrubbed the launch.

I get it. I remembered the Challenger disaster. I would much rather they cancelled the flight than put the astronauts at risk, but as I wrote on the back of the photo that I sent to my mom, “What a bummer!”

I never had another chance to try to see one from close to Cape Canaveral, although I did see a few other shuttle and rocket launches, usually while I was working at Walt Disney World. I remember one day, I was working the Backstage Studio Tour at what was then the Disney-MGM Studios, and I was able to call attention to the shuttle going up during one of the tours.

I had been fascinated with space and the space program for a long time. My mom says she got me up to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in 1969, but I don’t remember that. I do remember watching every space shuttle launch and landing that I could, when I wasn’t in school or at work. I remember hearing about the Challenger and calling my mom to verify it was true, because I didn’t believe it. I remember being jealous of my dad getting to meet astronaut Judith Resnick when she visited his base in Panama City; she was one of the crew killed aboard Challenger.

I didn’t figure I would ever have a shot at going up in space. Not because when I was growing up there weren’t any women astronauts. No, I didn’t have perfect vision or excellent math skills, both of which were required to become a military pilot, which is what you had to be to be considered for the space program. Now, of course, all kinds of non-pilot scientists get to go up to space, but sadly, it is too late for me. If they ever offered a seat to an aging, overweight news producer, though, I would throw my name in the hat in a heartbeat!

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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