Someday, My (Space)ship Or Space Shuttle Will Sail

The year: 1981. Pac-Man fever has incurably spread across the country. Both Mork and Mindy are still on the air. There are still pitched Battles of the Network Stars being fought on a yearly basis. The Sony Walkman has been on the market for a little under two years.

Oh, and Space Shuttle Columbia just blasted off for the very first time a couple of days ago, and is going to land very soon.

Now nearly six years since the last Space Shuttle lifted off, it’s almost unimaginable that a TV network would devote 3+ hours of wall-to-wall coverage to a perfectly ordinary Shuttle landing…except that this was the first time that a Shuttle returning from orbit ever came in for a landing. Every American space mission before this sunny April day in 1981 had ended with a splashdown in an ocean. But not this one.
[Via] Golden Pacific Media

It’s a slice of history, like a time machine: the first manned American space flight in six years was a big deal. And while it had taken longer to get the Space Shuttle airborne – on a scale of years – due to technical delays on the bleeding edge of new technologies, it had finally taken to the sky, something that looked more like a space fighter from a movie than it looked like a metal can with windows.

And perhaps most bittersweet of all, it had yet to let anyone down. The promises, made throughout the ‘70s ever since the Nixon administration had signed off on the Shuttle’s basic design, of routine, weekly flights to orbit, of a massive space station built by the 1990s that would be a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system…none of them had been broken yet. The reality of getting Columbia ready for her second flight hadn’t set in yet.

Nobody knew how difficult or costly it would be…or, just a few years later, how dangerous, as NASA tried to fly its fleet of Shuttles more and more frequently.

I remember watching the landing coverage at a friend’s house, the site of a spring break sleepover. He was ready to fire up the Atari, or go outside and kick a ball, and I wasn’t ready to budge. Like other budding space geeks who had grown up in a decade during which American astronauts had simply stopped going to space for years on end, it had all been building up to this – the lovingly illustrated National Geographic issue devoted to telling us what would happen “when the Space Shuttle finally flies”, the fleet of die-cast metal Space Shuttles that circled above the surface of the Earth (in my pockets), the plastic model kits of a non-fictional spacecraft that had never gotten around to flying…
Space Shuttle
(And yes, each one is actually a specific shuttle, in the order that I got them as a kid, and as such is sitting next to its name. The one with the tail cover is the Enterprise.)

For just a moment, the future was bright.

As of March 2017, we are now in a longer gap between spaceflights launched from American soil than the gap between the final Apollo mission (1975’s international Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight) and the first Shuttle launch. When the next crew of astronauts blasts off from the U.S., whether they’re aboard NASA’s Orion, or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, or something else, here’s hoping that my kids get that same sense of wonder – even if it’s a similar kind of naïve, momentary wonder – as I got from watching this: a moment where, in the future, anything could happen.

explorer 1 glass

Early US Spaceflight Glass Set

explorer 1 glass

I was very luck growing up in a home with parents who appreciated and celebrated America’s achievements in Space. They saved newspapers and bought trinkets and doodads all of which I loved looking at. One thing that was off limits were the glasses celebrating various NASA programs. I was forbidden to even touch them. This of course made them much more attractive. On the night after a successful rocket launch I would see on TV, I would sneak downstairs and sneak a celebratory glass of milk from an Apollo glass that I really liked, then I would clean it and put it back on the shelf. Why did this memory come flooding back to me? I spotted this set of Early US Spaceflight Glasses on Hake’s this morning.

According to Hake’s:

4″ tall. Four images and text below. Includes “Explorer 1/First U.S. Orbital Flight Jan. 31, 1958; U.S. Animal Test Flight ‘Enos’ Nov. 29, 1961; First U.S. Spaceman Allen B. Shepherd, Jr. May 5, 1961; Longest U.S. Manned Flight L. Gordon Cooper Jr. May 15-16, 1963.” Scarce and Exc.

Early US Spaceflight Glass Set @ Hake’s

NASA

Astronauts Scholarship Foundation Offer Space Artifacts In Online Charity Auction!


I am excited to announce that the Astronauts Scholarship Foundation is once again offering a unique online auction to not only get the chance to obtain space artifacts from the likes of Edgar Mitchell and John Blaha but to spend time with Fred Haise or Buzz Aldrin!

From their Press Release:
Kennedy Space Center, FL – Sip from vintage cocktails over dinner at the glamorous Beverly Hills’ Polo Lounge with Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin or grab a front row seat and VIP access to the action-packed Coke Zero 400 with one of only 12 men who have left footprints on the Moon. These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are just a sampling of what several legendary astronauts are offering in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s (ASF) online charity auction that opened today at www.AstronautScholarship.org/auction.

Pick from seven amazing Astronaut Experiences, including a private tour of Kennedy Space Center with Space Shuttle astronaut Robert Crippen and a wild safari trek through Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom with Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise.

In all, 39 auction lots are up for grabs, including an Apollo 14 beta cloth that flew to the moon, signed by Apollo Moonwalker Edgar Mitchell; a lunar map signed by 14 Apollo astronauts; and a rare autographed Alan Shepard vintage lithograph. And for anyone who’s dreamed of being an astronaut, a zero gravity spacesuit worn by shuttle astronaut John Blaha on the Russian Mir Space Station is up for auction.

“The astronaut experiences offered in this auction are a great way for us astronauts to combine our hobbies with our dedication to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation,” said Apollo 16 Moonwalker and ASF Chairman Charlie Duke, who is offering a Florida Keys SCUBA trip. “This auction will generate significant funds for some of the greatest young minds in our country.”   

Register and bid at www.AstronautScholarship.org/auction. The online auction concludes March 17, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. EDT. Winning bids, over fair market value, should be considered a charitable donation.

Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation who aids the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships to exceptional college students pursuing degrees in these fields. ASF funds twenty-eight $10,000 scholarships annually and has awarded more than $3.2 million to students nationwide. For more information visit: http://www.astronautscholarship.org/.

I’d step on the Moon’s face to even be in the same room as the likes of Buzz Aldrin so if you happen to win something in that auction you be sure to share it with us, okay?