I remember being 16 or 17 and getting up at about 4 a.m. with my mom to watch the first shuttle launch on our crappy old CRT air broadcast TV. I also remember, a few days later, watching the shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base out in the desert.
I just finished watching the final launch of the Space Shuttle on my laptop on a hi-def stream from UStream on the NASA website.
There's something tugging at the back of my mind about What-It-All-Means, but I can't quite grab it. Most of my life has been spent on this weird periphery of the American manned spaceflight program. Newport Beach in the late 60s was largely an aerospace company town in many ways. My father worked for Hughes and later Ford Aerospace and fabricated sheetmetal parts for spacecraft that went to the moon and beyond.
My uncle drove me out to Edwards when the shuttle Enterprise was in flight validation, without engines, gliding off the top of a modified 747 and landing at Edwards, about 18 months before we went to see the first one return from space.
While in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1986, I helped pick up pieces of the shuttle Challenger off the coast of Florida.
And now I have just witnessed the end of an era, possibly the end of manned spaceflight for America. We simply lack the political will to commit to this kind of adventure anymore; and our spirit is poorer for it.
Maybe it's just an age thing, watching the passing of the shuttle as I enter middle age; some sort of weird symbol of getting old and obsolete.
Carl Jung once wrote: "Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and unfolding but that an inexorable inner process forces the contraction of life."
What does he mean in the context of this post? I haven't a clue, I was just trying to be cool by quoting Jung... But I guess on another reading I guess it's a call for an acceptance of the inevitable. Yet something as seemingly unconnected with aging as watching the last shuttle launch ignites a little rebellion against such an idea.
Really I suppose it all just comes down to asking "what's next?" and hoping that there is some new adventure on the horizon.
Maybe feeling like this is normal? Either way, I shouldn't dwell too much on the mortality aspect. When I started this post, it really was just going to be a reflection on how much has changed in the last 30-some years; how much I have seen and how much I am going to see if I am blessed with another 30-some years.
That's really all I wanted to mull over... from new space shuttles on old crt broadcast TVs to old space shuttles on wifi hi def streams to a laptop: bookends for everything that came in between.
I guess I can figure out what it all means, later... if it really means anything at all...