In 1998, I was working for Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) and the NASA Payload Data Management Systems group at Kennedy Space Center was one of my customers. I was able to schedule an onsite visit for December, right at the time of a scheduled shuttle launch, and they got me tickets to the turn basin bleachers – about the closest you can get to the launch complex, next to the big countdown clock. The launch was to be about 4:30am on the 3rd, and I was there. A spot of trouble delayed the launch, and had to be rescheduled for the next morning. After a day of work and a bit of sleep, I was there again.
Watching the Endeavour leave the Earth on its way to the International Space Station was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.
It saddens me that the launch scheduled for today will be the final one for America’s shuttle program — as far as the public can tell the final launch for NASA — and that future generations won’t have the chance to be as proud of our nation as I was on that night.