All of you know how much I enjoyed my STS-133 launch experience back in November and February. With all of the incredible access that NASA provided us, the great people that I met (and have become lifelong friends with) and just the sheer awesomeness of seeing a 120-ton vehicle shoot into space, those two trips comprised probably two of the most memorable weeks of my life.
But as I was there, I couldn’t help but wish that The Boy could have been there too.
He couldn’t have, of course. NASA’s pass was for one and most definitely not for kids. And there was that pesky little matter of school, which is harder to get out of than a grown-up job.
One last shot
When NASA finalized the July launch date for STS-135, I knew that we had to make the effort to get out there and see it. This is the last time a shuttle will take off and possibly the final time we’ll launch a human into space from our own soil for quite a while. For someone who wants his kid to see a manned space launch in person, this is the last chance for the foreseeable future. Plus, it’s an addictive experience – I’d like to see it again myself.
Of course, we’re still recovering financially from my last two trips out to Florida and my leave time at work is starting to dry up as well. And there’s the 36 hours of driving roundtrip, which will only be harder with an 8-year-old in the car.
But in the past year, I’ve heard more stories than I can count from adults who remembered their families packing up the car and heading out to see Apollo-era launches. Every single one of them remembers those trips fondly. For several of them, it inspired them to do what they do today.
When I was almost nine (in fact, just about the exact same age that The Boy is now), my father and I took a trip by ourselves to Walt Disney World. It was a pretty much the only time my dad and I have ever done something like that alone, just the two of us. It was pretty awesome. We sailed on a boat, I got sick from eating too many salt and vinegar potato chips, and I collected little California Raisins figures from just about every Hardee’s along the way while we listened to the greatest hits of 1987. I want my son to have a memory of us having an adventure like that someday.
So we’re going.
On Tuesday, The Boy and I will load up the BPE for one more trip out to Florida. I won’t have the same up-front view that I had last time, but I think it’ll be just as great. We’re going to meetup with a group of fellow space enthusiasts at Space View Park in Titusville, a few miles north of the launch pad. And I’ll have my son next to me.
There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to see the shuttle launch (something I learned the hard way last November), but we’re going to give it our best shot. I’m sure we’ll have fun along the way regardless.
But what about the women?
Whereas The Boy is the perfect age for this kind of trip, The Girl is still too young to (1) care about it, (2) make it that long in the car and (3) remember it. So she’ll be staying here at home.
The Wife would like to see it, but her disdain for car trips longer than 15 minutes outweighs her desire to be there in person. So she’s okay with not going either.
The Dog and The Cat are unaware that anything is going on, as usual.