Book Mania

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Farewell To The Space Shuttle Era

Copernicus Crater With Etx 90
Greeting to all of you fellow Scope Nuts out there. I'm speaking, of course, to the the many amateur astronomers out there (professionals welcome too) who'd rather spend an evening peering at the Moon, planets, or stars instead of watching reruns on TV.

 I'm definitely of one the breed, and have been for some 50 years. I caught the bug when I was in grade school. Growing up in a small mid-western town, I used to occasionally sleep under the stars in our backyard with my older brother. He, being college age, would tell me fascinating tidbits that he'd learned in school about the universe. From our little un-polluted town, we could easily see the Milky Way, and now and again awesome views of the North Lights. From then on, I was hooked.

 I started this blog as a form of therapy, I suppose. I realized that I often enjoy others' blogs about their star gazing and telescope modification exploits. When the weather isn't cooperating, or when I get the bug during the day, or when I'm searching for some arcane bit of information about a specific telescope, eyepiece, or accessory, then I search the Internet and embroil myself in someone else's celestial experiences.

 I also tend to want to share my observing pleasures and occasional epiphanies with others. The problem is, I'm the only one in my family who enjoys the hobby. So, I've decided to list my exploits here, hopefully for the entertainment and maybe occasional enlightenment, for those who are chronically smitten with the aperture fever affliction.
Endeavor's Final Journey

 On this auspicious occasion, with my first blog post, I want to pay homage to an era I grew so used to, but an era that is now gone: the space shuttle era. I happened to get a tip from my son on September 20, 2012 that the space shuttle Endeavor's final piggyback flight would take it over our small city.

I ran outside a few minutes before the anticipated flyover, dragging my younger son and spouse out with 3 pair of binoculars and a digital camera, ready to view and capture the event. It was an awesome sight as the big 747 carrying the Endeavor came ever closer to our city, flying low so that everyone would be able to see Endeavor's last flight.

I zoomed in my digital camera and started snapping pictures of the approach. As the 747 made its way past us, I ran to find a better position to watch the plane as it made its departure. It was then that I glanced at the camera settings and realized that I had the camera in a totally inappropriate configuration for this situation.

I quickly switched to the proper setting and started snapping pictures again. Alas, my stupid mistake cost me all of the approach pictures, but I did get some nice shots as the 747 and attached Endeavor moved beyond us. The image shown is my best effort. In some ways, I think catching the duo as they receded in the blue sky was the best way to capture the final journey.

 Farewell Endeavor. I remember with mixed emotions the amazing triumphs and emotional tragedies. Like most all who were were alive at the time I suspect, I remember where I was and what I was doing when the Challenger and Columbia disasters occurred, and how deeply I was saddened on each occasion.

But I also remember that inspirational flight when Sally Ride took to space, and that helps lift me out of the despair of the calamities. I remember that NASA made a special shoulder patch for that flight. It said: "Ride Sally Ride." We'll have more triumphs in manned flight, but certainly with the loss of Sally Ride on July 23, 2012,  and the retirement of the space shuttle program, I certainly feel that we are at the end of an astonishing era.