Friday, July 8, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond...

A memoir of the Space Shuttle Program

As a child living in the Space Coast, I remember watching the launch countdown on the news and running out of the house as it approached takeoff. My sisters and I would run out to our driveway and look up into the sky, waiting to see the big clouds of smoke that resembled popcorn. We would watch the fiery flame push the shuttle up further into the clouds and wait until we saw the two rocket boosters falling through the sky. It was a competition to find those little black specs that were gracefully floating through the air before they landed in the ocean. Hearing the sonic boom as the shuttle left our Earth's atmosphere allowed us to breathe a sigh of relief and feel joyful as we walked back into the house, like we were celebrating a victory.

In elementary school, all classes would cease so that we could make it out to the playground in time to watch the shuttle lift off over the Indian River. All grades, preschool through 8th would be standing in groups looking up into the sky. At the time, I focused more on the act of getting out of class than the breathtaking experience of the shuttle launch that not many get to experience. Now, after moving to Virginia, I realize just how fortunate I was to be able to take part in such an extraordinary sight.

As a teacher in Florida, I was able to take my classroom outside to undergo what I had as a child. When I saw the amazement in their eyes, as fifth graders, I knew that I was sharing something exceptional with them and that they, too, would remember this forever.

After moving to Virginia, I was able to appreciate the shuttle launch in a different way. This past school year, with the final Endeavor mission on April 29th, my fifth grade class and I viewed the space shuttle launch on the television. Some of these students never saw a launch, never heard about Kennedy Space Center or knew where it was, and didn’t really know anything about their missions to the ISS. This day will always be memorable and is one of the most incredible “teachable moments” I’ve had as an educator. My students had so many questions to ask me, they were curious and wanted to discover more about the space mission. This beats any lesson I’ve ever prepared that correlates with the state standards that I will be held accountable for later on in the year with a multiple choice test. My students were interested in learning and were engaged in conversation. They didn’t even get to experience it firsthand like I had so many times in the past.

Looking back now, I will always have these memories to share with my children and those children that I teach, wherever I go. As I viewed the final shuttle launch this morning from the living room of my house in Virginia, I feel a sense of pride for having been able to be part of the Space Coast for so long. So many emotions overwhelmed me as I listened to the final countdown and watched all those who, fortunately, were able to make the trip to Brevard County to see the shuttle for one last time. I will forever remember those field trips we took to Kennedy Space Center in elementary school and the amazement of watching those astronauts risking their life to explore space so that we may discover new things about our planet and about our solar system. Today, I'm thankful that I've been able to experience such a monumental part of history. 

Good bye, Atlantis. What a ride it’s been… 


  1. excellent.

    totally know where you're coming from. it's an odd end of an era and something i grew up with too. i even remember the whole Challenger debacle. crazy.

  2. i forgot all about when we used to get out of class! that took me right back to it :) it will be missed!