Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Welcome to Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." For a list of this week's participants and information on how you can join in on the fun head over to Ms. Jenny's blog.
This week we are studying the letter "E" as in the Space Shuttle ENDEAVOUR.
The Space Shuttle ENDEAVOUR blasted off for the final time from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Monday, May 16, 2011. ENDEAVOUR is NASA's youngest space shuttle and this is her 25th flight into space. Unless you've been on Mars yourself, you probably know that ENDEAVOUR is commanded by Captain Mark Kelly the husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The Space Shuttle ENDEAVOUR has had quite a history over the last 20 years. This excellent 9+ minute video shows some of the highlights.
As exciting as it is to see a shuttle launch (and I've only seen them on television) I've always been fascinated with the way NASA transports the shuttles on the back of a 747 aircraft. Perhaps it was my fear of flying that made this feat seem unbelievable to me.
We live near the Johnson Space Center and Ellington Field and had the opportunity to see ENDEAVOUR on top of the 747 when NASA took delivery in May 1991. ENDEAVOUR was built by Rockwell in Palmdale, California to replace the space shuttle Challenger that was lost in an explosion on January 28, 1986. (We always remember that date since our son, Reid, turned ten years old that day.)
On May 6, 1991 ENDEAVOUR made a stop in Houston at Ellington Field on the way from California to Florida. Reid, Troy and I went out to see her. (I can't believe how young we look in these pictures, but it was 20 years ago!) I had to scan these photographs since digital photography wasn't even in our vocabulary back then.
I had to get the kids to cooperate. After all this was an historical occasion and they had to be photographed. They preferred to fool around.
Finally, they cooperated. They look so young and I didn't even remember Troy having long hair. He was going through his hard rock phase.
Of course, I wanted my picture taken with ENDEAVOUR too! I haven't changed a bit. I still look this young!
Over the years we've gone to open houses that NASA has had at the Johnson Space Center and Ellington Field and I've had a chance to get on the 747 and ask questions of one of the pilots.
Actually, that was the day I realized that fear of flying is a phobia. The 747 was parked at Ellington Field with the doors wide open. As we climbed the steps and walked inside I was surprised by my reaction. My heart was pounding and I was ready to turn around and run. I couldn't believe it since it was so obvious that the plane wasn't going anywhere any time soon. Besides, the inside of the plane was pretty much gutted in order to cut down on the weight. There were only a few seats in the front and the rest was just a wide open space and here I was reacting the way I did anytime I stepped on a plane to fly somewhere. It was definitely an ah-hah moment.
The pilot who was standing near the doorway turned and surprised me by asking if I had any questions. Of course, I did! I blurted, "How do you get this thing off the ground?" He apologized and told me that he didn't understand my question. Here I thought it was so obvious. I said, "You have this big plane with the equivalent of another plane on top of it...don't you have trouble getting it off the ground?" He assured me that he didn't. He told me it was just like flying any other plane except they needed a long enough runway. I already knew that a heavier plane needs a longer runway for take-off and landing, so that made sense. He also told me that they couldn't fly through turbulence. Ah...I thought I had him there. Obviously, turbulence must be extremely dangerous just as I had suspected and NASA wouldn't want to take a chance with the expensive shuttle. He told me, "No, it's just that the way the shuttle is mounted to the 747 they don't want to take a chance of jarring something loose." They fly at a lower altitude and another plane always flies ahead of them to warn them of turbulence.
Eventually, I overcame my fear of flying and that day at Ellington Field went a long way in helping me. It's pretty amazing to see that thing fly. I'm still hoping to see it one more time in person. After this mission ENDEAVOUR is heading to Los Angeles, California and its final home at the California Science Center. I'm hoping they'll fly it through here on the back of the 747 one last time.
Here's a short video of ENDEAVOUR on the back of the 747 in 2008.
For the latest ENDEAVOUR news check out NASA's website.
Now head over to Jenny's blog and visit some of this week's "E" posts.