Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Last Rockets

This is the first of what is sure to be a series of articles noting a series of "lasts" for the shuttle program. This one hits especially close to home for me, because the Solid Rocket Boosters were at the center of the plot of The Time It Takes to Fall (both literally and figuratively), and the journey they take by railway to get to Florida is one of those randomly beautiful facts that novelists could never make up and can only be grateful for. In Dolores's words, from the epilogue:

I still think about that O-ring. I’ve learned that it was manufactured in 1985 in Brigham City, Utah, cleaned off like a newborn, inspected and measured and inspected again before being packed and shipped to Florida. That O-ring made an American journey by railway, across deserts and mountains, across the width of the American South to arrive at the coast of central Florida on October 11, 1985, at the marshy wildlife refuge, the improbable spaceport. There it waited to be unloaded into the Vehicle Assembly Building, unpacked and reinspected and remeasured and reinspected again, by my father.

Never again will a Solid Rocket Booster make that journey. Unless, of course, the retirement of the space shuttle is extended for a few more years...