Dear Brent Danley,
Congratulations, you have been selected to attend the NASA Tweetup on July 7-8 for space shuttle Atlantis’ targeted launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! The event will provide you the opportunity to speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts, and managers, and to experience the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station.
Early Friday afternoon I received an email from NASA inviting me to the #NASATweetup at Kennedy Space Center for #STS135, the final launch of an American space shuttle. Read that again. Pretty amazing, eh?!
The news was overwhelming and took me quite by surprise. I had registered only days earlier, and didn’t expect to be selected. The invitation was and is impossible to process and appreciate. After letting it sink in for a while, things began to accelerate. I sent a reply email confirming my intent to attend, joined the Facebook group for attendees, researched airline tickets, and strategized schedule and finances. I have thought of little else since. I will experience an event about which I will tell my grandchildren.
It won’t be my first time at KSC to witness a shuttle launch. When I was twelve and living in Alaska, my father packed my older brother and I into his Oldsmobile and we started driving. After failing to reconcile their differences, my parents were getting divorced, and my father wanted to get away. We drove through Canada and down the West Coast of the United States before turning left and heading east. In every town my father would ask us if it was a place we would like to live. We said no for thousands of miles. When we got near Florida we decided, since we were so close, to go to Disney World. We checked into the Aloha Motel on Route 192 in Kissimmee, where we then lived for a month. It was January, 1986.
STS-51-L had been delayed several times. It was to be a historic flight, as the first civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, was traveling aboard. On January 28 we made the drive to the coast to watch the launch. We did the normal things tourists do at KSC: we got tickets to ride a bus to various buildings and launch sites, we toured the museum and were impressed by rockets on static display, and we ate lunch. During our lunch the launch countdown clock resumed and we walked outside to watch. The launch, as everybody knows, did not end well.
I am thrilled and honored to be one of only 150 space enthusiasts to be invited to attend the tweetup. We will, I understand, have the opportunity to take the bus tour I was not able to when I was twelve. I will also get to listen to and mingle with NASA officials and watch the final space shuttle launch from the press area, which is far closer than from where the general public watches.
There is a lot to do to prepare, and sacrifices will have to be made. I had not budgeted for this expense, which will be significant. There is no chance, however, of not going. I will make it happen. I strongly believe that life should be embraced and enjoyed, and that when opportunities like this come along they must be seized upon and experienced to the fullest extent possible.