Tomorrow is the final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and thanks to a little bit of good luck (and a lot of jumping without a net and hoping the universe will catch me), I’m here on the Space Coast in Florida and I’ll be one of the lucky few watching the launch from the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center.
For me, this experience has literally been 30 years in the making. I’ve always been a space exploration fan,1 but during the summer of 1977 I became a full-fledged NASA addict. In July of 1977, I had my second major surgery for Crohn’s disease and spent a chunk of that summer in recovery mode. One thing that kept me occupied during that recovery was reading and learning everything I could about the (then new) Shuttle program, plus watching the unpowered test flights and landings of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. When in April 1981 Columbia became the first shuttle launched into space, I made a promise to myself that I would get down to Florida to see a launch in person.
Flash forward three decades to 2011 and the Space Shuttles are being retired, with only two remaining flights — Endeavour this weekend and Atlantis on June 28. So if I was going to see a launch in person, it had be one of these two remaining flights.
Back in February when The Kennedy Space Center announced a lottery for tickets to view the Endeavour launch, I entered my name … which was actually picked. I immediately grabbed one of the viewing packages available only to the lottery winners. And despite delays in the Endeavour launch schedule, shifting work projects, various other twists of life and luck, and a road trip that landed me in the middle of the worst tornado outbreak in 40 years,2 I am here — seven miles from the gates of Kennedy Space Center — and tomorrow morning I will finally see a manned space launch.
Watch for lots of photos, stories and other updates following the launch and throughout the coming days. You also can follow my real-time thoughts on Twitter @KevinABarnes