Gary and I had driven over almost two years earlier to see Atlantis launch. It was a clear beautiful day, and Britt blogged about it. The launch on July 8th was totally different, it was cloudy, there had been alot of rain, and even with the zoom, the massive NASA structures looked hazy through the mist and fog. Unlike before, where Gary and I pulled off the road in a residential neighborhood and sat alone on the grass, there were tons of people and we actually needed to pay for parking.
I was nervous and excited, not sure if at the last moment they would call off the launch. Someone had a radio playing with the official chatter, and they finally began the countdown. As we said blast off, on the horizon you could see the smoke billowing up, and then the glow of all that fire, and the shuttle was off. We didn't see it long before it hit the clouds and was gone from sight. Mother saw it flash, and light up the clouds in thinner spots once after it disappeared from view, and like that the shuttle program that I followed and as a child dreamed of traveling to space in was over. As we sat there, clapping and cheering (why I'm not really sure, it's not like the astronauts could hear and appreciate us), the thunderous roar of the lift off, finally rolled across the bay to us around 13 miles away. All that was left to see was the huge plume of smoke, that was even then beginning to drift away.
It was amazing to be there at the end, but sad to think it was over with nothing to replace it. Britt and Ruth have no idea what they saw, but I got to be there with my own space hero; who writes all that amazing software to be able to read the experiments that happen so far away on the international space station and who wrote programs for the Chandra X-Ray space telescope - my Daddy, who does amazing and important work, and that was as special as all the rest.