(For more photos, click for my albums from pre-launch and Launch day)
I've been in a state of writer's block ever since I saw Atlantis break away for the clouds on Friday morning. Sure, I've been updating Twitter and Google+ like a madman, but I needed some time to write a long form blog post. As a fellow NASA Tweetup attendee taught me, I was "launch drunk!"
Now that I've some rest, I can better reflect on the impact that NASA and the shuttle program has had on my life.
My earliest memory is the aftermath of the Challenger incident. As a six year old, I couldn't put this into the proper historical perspective. However, there was a huge push for space and technology news within my school as well as my favorite media of the time - Highlights for Children and 3-2-1 Contact. I manned my own personal missions with my toy spacecraft, hoping that my impromptu Lego modular design would help against the inevitable alien encounter.
As a preteen, I took an astronomy class at the local community college, where we learned about planetary orbits, plotted constellations, and, of course, talked about the space shuttle. We even took a trip to the National Air and Space museum in DC, which was one of the first times I had been to a museum outside of the New York metro area. As a sign of the times, I also remember the bus stopping at a Dairy Queen on the way back, and playing the Simpsons arcade game with tree other friends as long as we could.
In a few years, I began to read the paper and watch the news on a daily basis. I always made sure to tune in for shuttle launches. There was no NASA TV or YouTube - the only way to experience NASA missions was to tune in live or for a recap. I always felt butterflies watching the coverage.
I felt those same butterflies during my first live launch last Friday, the last one ever.
NASA has big things on the horizon - continued research on the International Space Station, getting humans to Mars, and exploring asteroids - and my hope is that future generations are inspired by this work. I know I was.