Not irreverent, but a worthy “view” no-less
By Laura Tillinghast
The last scheduled night launch of the manned space flight program as we know it is tonight (tomorrow morning) at 4:39 a.m. If you live in Florida, set your alarms, go outside, and look East for the blaze in the sky. If you are really adventurous, get in your cars, drive to Titusville and pull off anywhere along US-1, turn on the AM radio and listen to mission control as it launches.
There are just four more scheduled shuttle launches this year – all day launches – then the shuttle program ends forever. Tickets to view from NASA galleries go on sale 4-6 weeks prior to launch and are pricey, but again, you can watch from US-1 as well. The new NASA budget does not fund any future manned space flight program, so 2010 will be the last for some time – I would estimate at least a decade. Civilian space flight is projected to start in 2011 in New Mexico with Richard Bronson’s company which is fascinating, of course.
I studied aerospace engineering in undergrad and did an internship at Cape Canaveral where I was able to crawl around inside one of the shuttles and watch one mission be assembled in the Vertical Assembly Building. This is truly the end of an area…though the beginning of another. Almost two years ago, I was talking with a classmate of mine who went Navy pilot with the idea of one day becoming an astronaut. I asked him if he was on track and would you believe he said this, “Actually, I have decided I want to be a civilian astronaut.” A WHAT?!? How cool is that? A civilian astronaut… Of course, it means a whole new frontier of regulations within the FAA, but man, the sky is no longer the limit by any means.
Long story short – set your alarm clock and look East!
Editor’s note: Laura Tillinghast has her undergraduate degree from the United States Naval Academy (class of ’97). She is an all around great person and the type of individual we need in elective office and public service because she’s smart, honest, and has the best of intentions.