Memories of space travel

Today is the anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon.  Radio 4 have done an interesting piece looking at it from the view of women involved, Buzz Aldrin’s wife and the one woman who was in the launch control.  It’s good to hear unusual memories of a well-known event.

Which led to my own memories of visiting the tourist attraction of Kennedy Space Centre, my favourite Orlando attraction.  In a coincidence, yesterday I came across photos of our last trip there in 2007 – the only one we have made with the offspring.  In the photo, one of them is touching a piece of moonstone with a very funny look of “oh hurry up and take the photo” look on his face. 

The visits to a tourist attraction were the first thing to come to mind, but then I remembered that I have also seen a shuttle launch!  We watched the launch of the shuttle Discovery along with the oldest person in space, Senator John Glenn, who, aged 77, was part of the crew as payload specialist looking at the effects of aging.  

I can’t remember where we stayed or how long before or after the launch we were on the coast, but I remember the day being long, there being a lot of waiting.  This morning’s research tells me that the launch was quite late in the day, my memory does not give me any of those details.  I also discover it was 29 October 1998.  

It was one of a series of amazing experiences in the 90s for me, and I have loved dragging those memories up this morning.  The launch was tear-inducingly awe-inspiring.  Obviously, we were miles away – the shuttle on its launchpad was a dot on the horizon. And then the launch rockets fired. I still remember the relief that we were miles away from the incredible noise and heat.

As I get older myself I marvel more and more at a 77 year old volunteering to go on such a trip, but even in 1998, in my mid-twenties, the thought of someone revisiting his earlier life and having this adventure in his eighth decade on the planet was so impressive.  I am not great at keeping mementoes, but I did keep my ‘Godspeed John Glenn’ t-shirt for decades (that is my equivalent of treasuring it for a lifetime!).  I still have a feeling of total awe that humans are able to travel into space at all, and the feat of engineering that gets them there is astounding, to say nothing of the humans who actually go into space.  

This is a rambling journey through memories of an event decades ago, but one that has me marvelling at how much my life has contained.  It’s good to take the time to think back and reflect.