Real Spaceship | July 29, 2011

So that’s it. No more Space Shuttle. Gone for ever the strangest bird that ever did fly. For sure, she was a strange beast, a bastard child of requirements from all arts and parts, and not the offspring that NASA actually wanted to have. But by god she was mighty.

When I was a kid I wanted a spaceship (I still want a spaceship) but there was a time in my early memories that I didn’t realise they didn’t exist, not in the way I thought. I didn’t believe Blake’s 7 was real or that there were spaceships that advanced, but I thought there wasn’t something beyond disposable rockets and return capsules.

Lego Space's "Galaxy Explorer" - I didn't own it, but this model probably had a greater influence on my view of what a spaceship should be than anything else...

I don’t know how I got into a conversation on the topic with my dad, although I expect the prime medium in the discussion was Lego, or at least a picture of a lego model. As was often the case, my dad’s thankless job was to tell me that we had rockets, but not spaceships of the kind I was thinking about. Life must be so much easier for ignorant parents. My five year old mind was disappointed with the feeble progress of my given species; I did not rate these mere rockets as proper vessels for human space travel. They were not “real spaceships”. It was the disposable nature of most of the vessel that I disliked most.

But there was hope, my dad said, the space shuttle – it goes up, chucks away a few bits, and then comes back. It was to be a “real spaceship”. And not long after she flew for the first time. I don’t really remember the liftoff, but I remember the landing – I guess that was the important part, as far as I was concerned.

Over the years I followed the highs and lows of the space shuttle program, like most people the lows got far too much attention – I even drew a picture of Challenger’s sad end at school for some reason. When I heard the news of the loss of Columbia on the car radio I had to pull over and have a bloody good man cry. I should have been around more for the highs.

At no point did I ever conceive that it would ever all be over, my little bit of space history, my space time. I will always miss you mighty space shuttle.

But my loss is unimportant compared to the loss of jobs the end of the shuttle era represents: To all the people, the many, many people who put in long hours and commitment to the shuttle, I raise a glass to you, and wish you well with the future.




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