I’ve always been a big space nerd. I never cared if my friends, family or strangers thought I was odd for getting so excited and wrapped up with anything to do with the space program. When I was 7 years old I flew to the moon many times in a spacecraft of my own design (a discarded refrigerator box which I had dragged from the side of a dumpster into my backyard). My team and I spent many late nights (till almost 6:30 pm on school nights) installing the windows (my mom helped me cut holes in it) and installing the control panels (drew them with crayons) and toggle switches (Popsicle sticks). I installed a navigation computer (also drawn with crayons) and all of the other flight controls required to fly a box for a major appliance to the moon.
I really wanted to be an Astronaut so I drank a lot of Tang and waited for NASA to discover they badly needed the services of a 7 year old boy strung out on high fructose corn syrup.
Well NASA never did call, but I never lost my keen interest in the space program either. So I was still paying attention to developments when in 1975, Rockwell International's Downey, CA plant began assembly of OV-102 - Columbia, the first flyable and reusable space shuttle just a few miles from my home. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the plant (left the refrigerator box at home) to see Columbia being built.
6 years later in March of 1981 I sat in my living room, literally on the edge of my seat, staring at our TV as Columbia, having successfully orbited the earth 36 times, re-entered the atmosphere and headed for a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of California. Veteran Astronaut John Young was at the controls and sitting in the co-pilot seat was rookie Astronaut Bob Crippen. Bob was so taken with the view of our state from 135,000 feet he called out “What a way to come to California!” and urged John to take a moment to look. John, ever the professional pilot took a quick peek and said “the view hasn’t changed much”. Right about then I was startled when I heard what sounded like two distinct explosions. Columbia had just anounced its presence, slowing from supersonic to subsonic flight as the nose and tail set off a double sonic boom which rattled windows across Southern California.
Over the years NASA added more shuttles to the fleet and after tragically losing Challenger, obtained authorization from Congress to replace it with a new Space Shuttle which would be called Endeavour.
Designed and built in California, it is fitting that Endeavour returned home today. And I now 43 years past the age of 7, took my team (my mom) to Disneyland where we both witnessed Endeavour’s last flight and I dreamed for just a moment of summer evenings spent flying over the backyard.
So thanks Mom for never once crushing a little boy’s hopes and dreams and thanks Endeavour – Welcome home.