It was 1957 and our whole family was crowded into our parents bedroom. We all crouched on the floor in front of the window, craning our necks as we searched the clear, dark winter night sky.Soon we saw it. It was a small fuzzy ball of light moving across the horizon- Sputnik, the recently launched Russian satellite, in low elliptical orbit over Earth. My fascination with space was forever kindled in that cold viewing spot with my family in Alaska. I was nine years old. I would try to always catch as many launches of rockets, satellites and space capsules going forward in life on this planet with a keen passion for what was ” out there” beyond the confines of Earth.🌏
Eleven years later I stood watching the night sky on my birthday…running inside to watch on television as Neil Armstrong stepped down on the surface of the Moon. Life would never be the same afterwards!
Some launches came before dawn and I would set my alarm to get up very early…missing sleep was no comparison to the excitement of a launch. There were many launches-not all as exciting but always breathtaking as the controller said “we have lift-off.”
Thirty one years ago today, I was in between patients at the clinic I worked in. Staff and patients alike hovered around the television as we watched the Spaceship Challenger launch. The communal gasp 31 seconds later when it exploded in the clear blue Florida morning sky will be forever ingrained in my memory. I am not sure how we worked the rest of the day with the grief so fresh, so raw. The lump in my throat and tears returned today as they showed film clips on the news.
As the evening news was about to sign off tonight, the meteorologist said the International Space Station was flying over Austin in about 3 minutes. In the chilly twilight sky we watched as it flew swiftly over our house and out of sight. It seemed a fitting close to a day etched with memories of space that will last a lifetime. Rest In Peace, space pioneers.
©Nancilynn Saylor, January 2017
Shuttle launch courtesy of NASA
stock photo of Atlantis 2011 launch