Monday, November 16, 2009

Atlantis Launched

There is a scene in the 1995 Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13 that always makes me a little bit sad. It shows the astronauts in space aboard the Apollo 13 shuttle on that fateful 1970 mission and the astronauts are goofing around for the camera because they assume-- incorrectly-- that everyone back on earth will be amazed by the flight into space and will be fascinated by the video. However, the movie depicts a public that's bored with what is perceived as routine space travel.

I have no idea if that exact scene took place or not aboard the actual Apollo 13 shuttle. But I do know that here, in the year 2009, we would not air constant footage of a space shuttle taking off during prime television viewing. The idea of blasting into outer space no longer astounds the majority of the American public. We've been sending men and women into space since before I was born. What's novel about that?

Today the space shuttle Atlantis launched at 1:28 p.m. CST. It's on its way to the International Space Station to restock it with supplies. The kids and I huddled around my computer to watch the live feed and, later, turned on Fox News to watch it there as well. I haven't watched a shuttle launch in long while. I'm a guilty member of the "it's commonplace" group.

But not after today. Today I saw the launch through Madeleine and Hank's eyes. As they fired question after question and let out more squeals and excited yells as the countdown clock neared zero I realized that there is nothing routine or commonplace about traveling into outer space. Both kids imagined what the astronauts, three who were experiencing their first mission, were thinking as they flew into the earth's atmosphere. They discussed what their kids, their spouses or their families left on earth were thinking about and feeling. They were astounded at the shuttle's quickening speed and the release of rocket boosters and their descent back to earth.

It was an exciting moment to share with my kids, and I'm so thankful they could remind me there is nothing routine about traveling into outer space, no matter how long man has been doing so.

If you're so inclined, check out NASA's website and view the launch there. It is pretty incredible!


Superdad said...

I watched it at work. I can't remeber the last time I watched a launch. It was pretty cool. I like the commentary from NASA.

Cate said...

Yeah, the NASA site was great. It was actually faster than FN too, which was 2-3 seconds delayed. I'm surprised Hank's head didn't explode; he couldn't get the questions out fast enough.

Bob said...

It's great that you are telling the kids about the NASA flights!

Cate said...


We visited the Kennedy Space Center when we were on that FL trip right? Or am I just imagining that?

Bob said...

You are correct....We were there in April of 1987, about 16 months after the Challenger disaster. Remember the beaches that were totally without high rise condos (the kind of beach that Jennifer loved)