In late 2009, I bought tickets for my family to attend the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-129). A lot of bad things were happening that year, and we never made it to Florida. I was heartbroken, because it really meant a lot to me. A FedEx envelope, containing our vehicle pass and admission tickets, is still in my car to this day.
For Christmas that year, my husband gave me a model of the space shuttle Discovery, as well as the mission patch for STS-131, Discovery’s next flight. The model was to hold me over until it was time for me to go see the launch in person.
Without a doubt, it was the best Christmas gift I have ever received!
The morning of April 4th, Easter Sunday, I woke up before dawn to get ready for my early morning flight to Orlando. I nearly stepped on our little kitten, Midnight, who was in the middle of our bedroom floor. When we turned on the lights, it became obvious that something was horribly wrong with her. She was limp, unresponsive to touch, and her pupils didn’t react to light. We knew that she was dying, and there was nothing we could do about it. I wanted to cancel my trip, because it just seemed wrong to leave her. My husband convinced me to go, since there really wasn’t any hope for Midnight, and seeing a shuttle launch is not an everyday occurrence.
I arrived in Florida late that afternoon. I had decided to stay on Disney property, since I planned to visit Disney World after the shuttle launched, if it launched on time. If there were any launch delays, I had several days worth of vacation time available. I arrived at my hotel that evening, only to have the clerk tell me that my room wouldn’t be ready until midnight. She was only joking, but I wasn’t laughing. Midnight had died while I was traveling, and I was exhausted from going to bed too late the night before the trip. The last thing I expected to hear was that my room wasn’t ready. Anyway, she finally gave me my room key, and I got settled in my room for a short nap.
Around midnight, I woke up and got ready to leave. I had to be at Kennedy Space Center no later than 2 AM, and I wasn’t taking any chances with traffic that night. I arrived in plenty of time, and I wandered through the visitors’ center and gift shop for as long as I could. I finally grew too tired to stay awake, despite all of the excitement surrounding the launch. I joined other sleepy souls camping out in one of the buildings for a little while, but sleeping on hard floors was never something I could accomplish, even under the best of circumstances. I ended up going back to my rental car and taking a nap.
My phone’s alarm clock went off about an hour before the launch, and I went back inside the visitors’ center. I arrived just in time to see the International Space Station fly overhead, followed by the shuttle launch a short time later. I was in such a bad position that I could barely see anything, even on the big screen they had available for us, but at least I could say that I was there for the launch.
As soon as the launch was over, I made a mad dash back to the car, so I could beat most of the traffic returning to Orlando that morning. Once there, I went to my room, put out the “do not disturb” sign, and took a badly needed nap. The rest of my mommy vacation was spent at Disney World, where I took pictures of families (so everyone could be in the pictures) and soaked up the atmosphere at one of my favorite places to visit.
I’m not going to Disney World during my upcoming trip to see the last space shuttle launch, although I will probably visit Downtown Disney for some gifts for the kids. Most of my time in Florida this year will be spent on the Space Coast. And I can’t wait!