Monday, May 30, 2011

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be President

The first man on the moon, the last man on the moon, and Jim Lovell, who missed his chance to step on the moon on Apollo 13 (think Tom Hanks), get together for some Obama-blaming on the anniversary of the "before this decade is out" speech.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Before This Decade Is Out Day!

As you know, 2011 is a big year for space anniversaries. We celebrated Yuri Gagarin's first flight on April 12 and then a few weeks later Alan Shepard's first flight on May 5. Imagine being Kennedy in the few weeks between May 5 and 25 (keeping in mind he had only been inaugurated in January). He spent those weeks conferring with scientists, the Pentagon, and let's face it probably the CIA. Then on the 25th JFK came out with his daring charge to the nation. Seriously, watch it, it's only a few minutes.

My favorite part of this speech, of course, is the part where he says we're going to the moon. But I am also totally amazed by his humility toward the end where he goes off the page. He admits that "I came to this conclusion with some reluctance," and then closes with this:

You must decide yourselves, as I have decided. And I am confident that whether you finally decide in the way I have decided or not, that your judgment, as my judgment, was reached in the best interest of our country.

That guy was a class act.

Now just for fun, put on your best Hyannis Port accent and sing along: "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard!"

(Still not quite sure what "the other things" are.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Dawn at Kennedy Space Center

The next-to-last space shuttle launch was Monday (if I was a real English professor I'd use the word "penultimate") and scholars, I was there.

When I went to my first space shuttle launch, STS-102 in March 2001, I was all like, Well, that's it, I've seen a shuttle launch! I was writing a book in which the characters go to many shuttle launches, and I needed to see one to know what it was like. Having crossed that off my list, I never thought I'd make a point of seeing another one again.

But then the program was canceled, and I wanted to write about the end of American human spaceflight. I felt like I should see the last few launches in order to write about it. My second launch was ten years after my first, three months ago, STS-133 in February 2011, and I was surprised by how different it was from 102. 102 was a night launch and 133 was day; I was at a different vantage point, the weather was different, 102 was pre-Columbia and 133 was post-, and the overall spectacle, sound, and experience were totally different.

As of Monday, I've seen three launches, and I'm starting to understand why some people who live in central Florida make it a point to go to every single one. Each one is a little different from the others, they each have a different story behind them and put on a different performance. Realizing this of course makes me incredibly sad that there is only one more to go for all time. And of course I plan to be there no matter what it takes.

This time I had a WAY better vantage point than I ever have, and better than almost anyone else. I mean not to be braggy, but I was closer than the press site, even closer (by a smidgen) than the astronaut's families, where President Obama was for the first attempt. This is all thanks to my friend Omar and his father Frank, both of whom work at the Cape, and they were generous enough to invite me along on their Extra Special Access badges. Here is a great video that Omar shot:

Godspeed Endeavour!