The Space Shuttle - how I remember it

10 minutes

A few weeks ago, Scott Manley made a video about a nonstandard Space Shuttle landing at the Edwards Air Force Base . The video was based on a blog entry written by Wayne Hale, a Space Shuttle Flight Director.

When I come across a new blog, I rarely read the old entries, maybe one or two of the latest ones. As for Wayne’s diary, I am in progress of reading the entire thing. I cannot recommend his writing enough. It’s captivating, technical, yet accessible at the same time. He talks about the day-to-day work of being a Flight Director, about the hair raising emergencies, and everything in between. I hope he’ll make a book of his memories one day.

Reading his blog about the Space Shuttle made me think about my memories and experiences with it.

I remember when my dad was getting us The Internet for the first time, it was somewhere in 1996, if I recall correctly. I was eight by then, and I don’t know why, but my first thought when I was told that we are going to have Internet at home was that I will be able to visit sites about the Space Shuttle. Why those in particular? I don’t know, I was not a space nerd during that time, but somehow I made a connection between the tubes and the Shuttle. Maybe because both of them were for me insanely advanced technology? Children’s minds work in mysterious ways. Funnily enough, I don’t remember actually visiting “those sites”, but the anticipation stayed in me.

Fast forward a few years, and I vividly remember watching the Columbia disaster in real time. That also stuck in me. Watching CNN and other English-speaking stations despite my not-so-great proficiency in that language. My dad facepalming at Polish media reporting that the Shuttle was traveling “several times the speed of light” during reentry. He said that he still remembered witnessing the Challenger disaster, he was in the Army back then (in his time, every Pole had to serve in the Army for a few months), and he and his team were sitting around the radio listening to the news.

I also remember watching Space Shuttle launches broadcasted live when they came back to flight. I was then in high school and watched them on my first own PC, and tried to interest my high school crush in the topic (that did not work out, as the whole relationship thing with her).

I remember reading how the Space Shuttle built the ISS, following the construction of solar panels and trusses and living quarters.

Fast forward again, it’s 2011 and I am watching the finalest ever landing of the Space Shuttle, STS-135, and I feel that an era ends.

To think about it, the Shuttle was always somewhere in the background for most of my life. My fascination with space and spaceflight would come and go through all those years, with ebbs and flows, but it was there.

Now as I am older, I understand better the full story of the Shuttle, how it was the most advanced flying machine that the mankind has ever created, and in a way a financial disaster for NASA, about all the compromises that had to go into building it.

And thanks to Wayne’s blog I am able to relive all that, and learn even more about the machines and people who built it and flew it and controlled the missions.

Just like Wayne is, I am now excited for Artemis. Much more for Artemis than for Starship, as I prefer governmental institutions going to space for science, rather than capitalists doing it for profit.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. It’s funny, I have only two types of blog posts, the first category are the ones I write for weeks, project updates and such, and the second one are personal musing like this one, which I am able to finish in 30 minutes, 1 hour tops. There is nothing in between. Any you never know when inspiration hits you.