There we were, standing in the bed of a stranger’s pickup truck, staring at a plume of smoke that reached up to the heavens. We stood there in silence and waited. We counted silently to ourselves. “Any second now,” we said softly. Any second now I repeated to myself in my mind. Then we heard it. It was a roar unlike anything I’d heard before. It vanquished the silence. It shook the earth. It rattled my soul. It was an experience full of sound and fury, and it signified everything!
Last week, Lee and I ventured to Florida’s Space Coast to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the historic closing of a space exploration program that began when I was a young boy. To see Atlantis blast off into space was, for the both of us, the culmination of many recent failed attempts, as well as a culmination of a lifetime of desire.
Since 2005, Lee and I have tried on several occasions to catch a launch in person. On our first attempt, we heard the launch had been scrubbed as we were driving through Orlando. That resulted in a fun-filled afternoon in Downtown Disney.
The next time was wholly spontaneous. Lee came home from work one afternoon and said to me, “Did you know there’s a shuttle launch tonight?” I told her I was vaguely aware of that fact. “You wanna’ go?” I jokingly said, “Sure.” “Okay. Let’s go then,” she said imperatively. “Wait. You’re serious?” Next thing I know, we’re driving along I-4 trying to figure out exactly where we need to go. Given this was well before the days of smart phones, I managed to take a ninety minute detour that left us literally running from the car to a spot where we could see the launch. Huffing and puffing as we finally found a suitable viewing location, we were filled with excitement as we overheard others counting down. Then, with forty seconds left, the launch was scrubbed.
Our third attempt was very more involved and planned out. However, like the two attempts that preceded, that one too yielded a failure to launch. (You can read the details of that adventure here).
It’s safe to say that in addition to the immense feeling of awe and amazement we felt as STS-135, the final of all shuttle flights, escaped Earth’s pull as it rocketed into space, Lee and I also felt a strong sense of resolution. For us, it was definitely ‘Mission Accomplished’ and it was another page in the book of blessings we’ve been able to share together.
Unlike the vacuum of space, for Lee and me there is no frontier that is final. As we walk together on this journey of life, every adventure completed and experience shared solidifies in both of us the knowledge that our partnership is meant to be. She and I make a good team, even when we have our personal moments of failure. It’s truly a blessing to have in my life a woman who allows my dreams to orbit the earth but also keeps my feet planted firmly on the ground.
PS. God speed to the crew of the Atlantis. Wishing them all a safe return home.