See that mischievous and handsome kid on the right in that photo over there?? That's me 30 plus years ago proudly displaying my NASA t-shirt. A lot has changed since then except for one thing: I'm still a nut for anything that can go 17,000 miles an hour. I am of course speaking of a Space Shuttle and this week I will make my long desired trip out to see the very last launch of this historic and iconic space craft.
On July 8th, if all goes as planned, Space Shuttle Atlantis will lift off on it's final trek to the international space station and I will be there to see it go. This is the very last launch of a Space Shuttle. Over the next several days, I'll be blogging about my experience of making my way to and witnessing this event. I hope you will read along, and I also hope Atlantis launches on time because I only get one shot! But first, introductions and a little background...
My name is Todd Heapy. I'm a Palo Alto resident and full time artist in the computer animation business. More recently though, I've taken on the challenging role of getting myself out to Florida to see a launch in person. This fascination, or obsession as my wife might point out, that led to this trip actually started not much after that photo was taken in the early 80s. I'm an Army Brat and back then my family lived outside Washington DC. One afternoon the space shuttle flew right over our house as it was being piggy-backed on a modified NASA 747 jet used to transport it and perform tests. I ran out of the house just in time to see it fly over and snap some fuzzy photos. It was pretty exciting for me, and I can still picture the moment very clearly. The seed was planted!
As an Army Brat I've always had a fascination with military equipment, jets and all things shiny & fast. I had some thoughts of becoming an Air Force pilot in my teens, but I had disqualifying eyesight at the time and that idea faded. Once the the shuttle program started I already had a keen appreciation for the pilots and other engineers that get flying things up in the air. So, over the years I've followed the program from afar. I've been on the West coast all of my adult life and did the typical, "Someday I'll get out there for a launch." The years went by. Life was busy. You know...the usual. Well, that someday finally started in earnest in June of last year when I booked a flight out to Florida. There were three launches left at that point.
As is typical, the launch I had my eyes on got moved around quite a bit- September to October to November and finally to February of 2011. I had changed my ticket and vacations days several times by then but finally had to skip that launch and hope for a future one. That next one changed as well, and my plans were a bit up in the air. Just getting my schedule and NASA's to line up was getting to be a problem. How inconsiderate of them. I had to settle for TV coverage and live web feeds as these two launches took place. My fascination and determination only increased as this remarkable program was coming to a close. It was time to really make something happen before it was too late. At this point a few months ago it's down to the last launch and it's my last chance. Every space/rocket themed song from the 70s to the 90s is going through my head now. Must...get...to...Kennedy Space Center!
So, a few months back I re-booked for this final launch attempt with fingers crossed. I'd already spent many dollars on travel changes, and I hadn't even gone anywhere. Now I had a date to work with, reservations to make, vacation days to request and the next step was to get a prime viewing spot. Easy, right??
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