Friday, October 28, 2011

I Will Never Forget

Rocket Man and Ares I-X, October 26, 2009
Two years ago, we were at Cape Canaveral for the launch of Ares I-X.
Rocket Man and his team had a part in that historic launch.  Walking that journey with him was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. 

Mission Patch

The year before the launch, while they were building the Roll Control System (RoCS), he worked about 5 months straight, taking off only Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  He worked long, long days and tossed and turned those short nights trying to solve problems.  I realized early on that if I wanted to see him, I needed to go to work with him on the weekends.

Thus began my involvement in the project.  Early every Saturday morning that fall, I got up and packed a bag of things to occupy myself and joined him as he headed toward the shop.  We'd stop for a biscuit and coffee on the way, and I would get my V-badge and settle into his office for the day.

I rearranged the pictures on the wall that fall.  I sorted through piles and piles of things. I walked the shop floor with him and learned to know the very talented machinists who actually made the parts that were going to fly.  They named me the shop mascot and were all so very kind to explain what they were doing and how the machines worked.  It was fascinating.

I suited up and followed him into the clean room to check progress.  I held pieces of history in my hand  I even handed over my debit card once so Rocket Man could order some bolts that needed to be shipped overnight.
 (come to think of it...I never got reimbursed for that. 
I had an investment of time and $100 in the project!)

In January of 2009, RoCS shipped to the Cape and Rocket Man went down to oversee the assembly of the unit to the rocket.  I felt like we'd sent a child off to college.

Then, the waiting began. 
 And the date slipped from spring to summer to fall. 
And we waited. 
And other projects were completed. 
And we waited.

Finally, the date of October 27 was set and we were going full-speed ahead.  Until I got the bad news that I needed to have surgery on my back.  You never saw anyone more determined to recover than I was.  4 weeks and 2 days post-surgery, I was on a flight headed to the Cape to meet up with Rocket Man for the launch.

Rocket Man waiting for the final countdown

It didn't launch on the 27th.  But, by golly...on October 28, 2009 at 11:30 in the morning, that rocket fired and launched!  She flew true.  Ares I-X did everything she was designed to do.  It was exhilirating and awesome.  As I write, remembering the emotion I felt, I'm in tears...again.

T minus four and holding

Two years later, we sit with a space program that seems to be lost.  The last Shuttle has been retired.  Constellation became Cancellation.  The current administration has put a choke hold on NASA and all the work that went into Ares I-X seems to be for naught. 

Receiving well-deserved thanks from very important people

 I am honored that the amazing Rocket Man has invited me to attend the Ares reunion with him today. Many of the team will assemble, raise their glasses in a toast to their accomplishment and talk about that glorious day that went mostly unnoticed by the general public.  That day when our pride exploded from the launch pad and flew high.  That day.  That glorious day.

I don't forget. 
I will never forget.
I will tell and retell to my children
and my nephews
and my nieces
 and my grandchildren.

I will tell the story to anyone who will listen.
It may never be more than a sentence in a book
 that someone writes
and a few read
 about space history.

To me, to many of us, it was a day that we experienced something
 larger than life
something bigger than any one person.
Something that was fashoned from a dream,
 designed, engineered, built, tested, assembled and finally launched.

And it worked!
I held the hand of one who helped make it possible.
And joined hands with many who were involved.

Sunset on that glorious day

The memories have become bittersweet, but I will not forget.
I will never forget.


You can see the post I wrote the night before the launch here

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