How it all began

I’ve always been a space nut.

A look at my childhood bookshelf reveals a handful of unopened fiction works, some lightly used puzzle books, and a heap of space-related books, nearly all of which are worn to the point of losing pages.  Favorites for me were “The Dream is Alive” (the book from the IMAX movie — in the heady days of optimism before the Challenger disaster), “To Space and Back” by Sally Ride, “The Space Shuttle Operator’s Manual” by Kerry Mark Joels (perhaps the one missing the most pages), and “Shuttle 3” by Nigel Macknight.

Two of my favorite childhood vacations were to Florida.  When I was about 8, my parents took me to Kennedy Space Center — a decision they probably regretted, with all the shrieking I did the moment I was able to see the VAB.  That trip was also my first time at Disney World, but I don’t really remember much about that.  When I was 10, I returned to Orlando, and while I never ventured east, I was able to see the 4:30 AM launch of STS-61 from outside my hotel, 40 miles west — to date, the only launch I’ve ever seen in person.

The space program is perhaps the single largest reason I became interested in engineering, and I am now working on finishing my Ph. D. in mechanical engineering.  The obsession with the space program never ended — I even visited KSC on my honeymoon.

I found out I was selected for this Tweetup at about 2:00 on Friday, June 10.  I was working my part-time job at the time, and I had just gone to check my email.  When I saw the email that said “Tweetup Confirmation,” I got the same feeling I had when I first saw the VAB, nearly 20 years ago. I’ve never known a world without the Space Shuttle, and with the program finally ending, it’s unbelievably touching to be there for its swan song.

Now every day is spent counting down, planning.  16 days, 22 hours until I’m on that plane for Florida.